The Lawsuit, Verdict and Bankruptcy
On May 13, 2003, after two months of trial, the Alameda County California Superior Court entered a judgment of approximately $24 million against Bruce Jennings, Bryco Arms, and B.L. Jennings, Inc. The judgment was based on a unanimous jury verdict finding the Bryco pistol defective in design, and a partial cause of Brandon Maxfield's total damages of approximately $51 million. The verdict was entirely for compensatory damages (medical expenses, earnings loss, pain and suffering), as no punitive damages were sought.
On May 14, 2003, 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."
The filing precluded Brandon Maxfield from taking any steps to satisfy his judgment, pending the outcome of the bankruptcy proceedings. The filing also stayed numerous other lawsuits brought by injured parties and government entities around the county. In bankruptcy terms, these parties are known as "unsecured creditors."
One of the functions of the Bankruptcy Court is to supervise the liquidation of the debtors' assets for the benefit of creditors. Debtors are first allowed to keep certain “exempt” assets. Next debtors' attorneys are paid, administrative costs are settled, secured creditors are paid, etc. If anything remains, it can be distributed among the unsecured creditors. The debtors are “discharged” from their judgments - unpaid creditors are out of luck, and debtors are allowed to keep anything they earn subsequent to the bankruptcy filing.
The Bankruptcy Court in this case has thus far allowed Bruce Jennings to remain in charge of the debtors' assets, in lieu of appointing a trustee, during the bankruptcy proceedings.