Brandon Maxfield’s Suit Against
Brandon Maxfield of northern CA was accidentally shot in the face by a Bryco Arms pistol. A jury found the gun's safety feature defective because it requires a user to disable the manual safety, placing it on "Fire", to unload. As a result, when 7-year-old Brandon's babysitter tried to unload the gun to prevent a hazardous situation, it discharged, hitting Brandon and leaving him paralyzed for life.
This tragedy could have been prevented had Bryco Arms kept the original design that allowed for safe unloading, but it changed the design to hide a jamming problem with its new pistols.
Because of Brandon’s courage and attorney, Richard R. Ruggieri’s commitment to this case, on May 7, 2003, a jury of the Superior Court of the State of California in Alameda County unanimously awarded $50.9 million in compensatory damages to Brandon. The jury found gun designer Bruce Jennings, Bryco Arms, and its distributor B.L. Jennings, Inc. partially liable for knowingly designing unreasonably dangerous and defective products, and the Court entered a judgment of $24 million against Bryco Arms, Bruce Jennings, and B.L. Jennings, Inc.
But the battle wasn’t over. Not surprisingly, Bryco and Jennings, filed for bankruptcy days after the verdict. Jennings moved across the country to Daytona Beach, Florida, purchased a $500,000 annuity, and paid cash for a $900,000 home and hangar, which housed his Lamborghini and other expensive cars and several aircraft.
Determined to keep fighting, Brandon Maxfield began a fundraising campaign, using the Internet and word-of-mouth, to raise money to buy the bankrupt company. He wanted to melt down the remaining inventory of guns and weapons, so that no one else would be hurt or killed. In an amazing effort, Brandon raised over $500,000—but it still wasn’t enough to top the bid of Bryco’s plant manager in bankruptcy court, who, it is now apparent, was financed in his bidding by money traced back to the Jennings family.
The re-formed company, now known as Jimenez Arms, and its sole distributor, Shining Star Investments, are owned by the former plant manager and Bruce Jennings’s second ex-wife, Janice Jennings respectively. And the Jimenez JA-9 pistols they make and sell include the same safety defect as the Bryco's—a manual safety that must be set to "fire" before the gun can be unloaded. Bryco has yet to provide any compensation to Brandon.
Ruggieri’s fight for his client continues, but because of his and Brandon’s tireless efforts, they nonetheless succeeded in capturing the attention of the United States Congress, the national news media, and the American public with Brandon’s story.
At a time when Congress is working to prohibit gun lawsuits and shield weapons manufacturers from liability, this case is an inspiration for advocates of safe products and legal accountability. Richard and Brandon’s perseverance has sent an unmistakable message about the importance of the civil justice system and its role in achieving fairness for all Americans.
Republished with permission of the Associationof Trial Lawyers of America.
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