San Rafael Attorney Richard Ruggieri Receives National Legal Award
Association of Trial Lawyers of America Award Honors Brandon Maxfield's Suit Against Deadly Weapons-Maker Bryco Arms
Washington, DC - San Rafael, California attorney Richard R. Ruggieri and his client, Brandon Maxfield, who brought a landmark case against "Saturday Night Special" gun manufacturer Bryco Arms, have been named the winners of the 2005 Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) announced this week.
The Sharp Award is given each year to the ATLA member whose case most exemplifies the power of the American civil justice system. This year's case, Maxfield vs. Bryco, was brought by Ruggieri on behalf of a young California man named Brandon Maxfield. When he was seven years old, Maxfield was accidentally shot in the face by a defective Bryco "Saturday Night Special." As a result, he is permanently paralyzed below the neck.
Because of Brandon's courage and 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.
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.
Maxfield attempted to purchase Bryco's gun-making equipment at a bankruptcy auction last August. He formed Brandon's Arms, a non-profit organization, which raised money to buy the assets to melt down the defective pistols and halt production. Maxfield was outbid by Paul Jimenez, former Bryco plant manager. Jimenez bought the company's assets for $510,000 and formed Jimenez Arms, which many allege is still controlled by Bryco's Bruce Jennings. Brandon's Arms had the first Jimenez Arms gun tested, resulting in the California Department of Justice ordering manufacture halted as an "unsafe firearm."
The ATLA award is named for Steven Sharp, an Oregon teenager. Steven lost both arms when they were trapped in a defective tractor hay baler. Steven won an $8.5 million jury verdict against the tractor company. The company appealed, but on June 24, 1999, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court affirmed Steven's case. His story helped defeat a federal products liability bill that would have limited the legal rights of all American families.
Brandon's Arms works to promote the public safety by reducing and eliminating injuries and deaths from the accidental or criminal use of firearms. Brandon is continuing his fight to obtain compensation from Bryco Arms and to keep defective junk guns and crime guns off the streets.
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