The Bryco Model 38, Brandon Maxfield, and the Downfall of Bryco Arms

By adam01364, May 10, 2020 | |
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    The Bryco Model 38, Brandon Maxfield, and the downfall of Bryco Arms
    by "adam01364"

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    The Bryco Model 38, Brandon Maxfield, and the downfall of Bryco Arms

    Brandon Maxfield’s father purchased a gun at a pawnshop for self-protection. The Willits California man kept the gun loaded and unsecured in a nightstand drawer. While his father and mother were away, 7-year-old Brandon and a 12-year-old relative found the gun, and their 20-year-old babysitter took it away from them.

    Unfortunately for all concerned, the babysitter tied to unload the gun and it discharged, wounding Maxfield so severely he wasn’t expected to live. The gun was a Bryco Model 38 (aka Bryco M38) chambered in .380.

    Against the odds, Brandon Maxfield did survive, although he was incapacitated from the neck down.

    In May of 2001, Brandon filed his personal injury lawsuit against Bryco. Brandon’s lawyers claimed that Bryco Arms deliberately designed the Model 38 to require the user to disable the manual safety before unloading in order to hide a known jamming problem.

    After two years of litigation, (two months of which were a jury trial) on May 13, 2003 the Alameda County California Superior Court entered a judgment of approximately $24 million against Bruce Jennings, Bryco Arms, and B.L. Jennings, Inc. The jury also found Maxfield's mother and the baby-sitter partially at fault, but because they are both penniless, Maxfield could not collect from them.

    The judgment was based on a unanimous jury verdict finding that the Bryco pistol was defective in design, that Bryco Arms knew that unloading was accident-prone, and knew that the manual safety was the only guard against accidental firing. Key to the Plaintiff’s case was the fact that previous models allowed unloading on "Safe," and were accompanied by a specific warning to unload only on "Safe." The Plaintiffs argued Bryco Arms changed this design, requiring the safety to be placed on "Fire" to unload in order to hide a jamming problem on its handguns, and just deleted the safety warning from the instructions. The jury determined this was a cause of Brandon Maxfield's injuries and awarded total damages of approximately $51 million.

    On May 14, 2003 –one day after the verdict, Bruce Jennings, Bryco Arms, B.L. Jennings, Inc. and the various trusts, ex-wife, and partnerships filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Florida. In bankruptcy terms, they became known as "debtors." Jennings had previously protected his million-dollar home in Daytona Beach under Florida’s Homestead Act. The bankruptcy filing precluded Brandon Maxfield from taking any steps to satisfy his judgment, and stayed numerous other lawsuits brought by injured parties and government entities around the county. In bankruptcy terms, Brandon and these other parties became known as "unsecured creditors," and were required to litigate the remainder of their cases and the collection of their judgments in the Florida bankruptcy court.

    Brandon’s attorneys were tenacious and eventually the Bankruptcy Court ruled that Bruce Jennings had committed asset hiding and bankruptcy fraud, and the court refused to grant Jennings a discharge of his debts, which allowed Brandon to continue to pursue damages.

    In the end, Brandon succeeded in putting Jennings and Bryco out of business.

    Enter Paul Jimenez.

    In order to satisfy the judgement, the Bankruptcy Court ordered Bryco Arms’ assets be auctioned to the highest bidder. Brandon launched a campaign to raise money to bid on the equipment and guns. Brandon planned to destroy the guns and redirect the plant and equipment from gun production to purposes benefiting the public interest. However Paul Jimenez, Bryco Arms's plant manager, proposed to purchase the assets and continue manufacturing under the name Jimenez Arms. Brandon raised and bid $505,000 at the auction. However Paul Jimenez offered the highest bid of $510,000, and was awarded Bryco’s gun making equipment and 75,000 defective guns.

    Subsequent inquiry revealed that Janice Jennings, president of Bryco Arms, had formed a new company named Shining Star Investments to be the sole distributor of the guns manufactured by Jimenez Arms. Furthermore Shining Star Investments made advance payments to Paul Jimenez which provided the source of funding for Jimenez's bidding. The agreement was for Jimenez Arms gun orders to be fulfilled if indeed Jimenez was the successful bidder. This was not illegal, and it did not invalidate the auction.

    And so, Bryco became Jimenez Arms.

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