August 13, 2004 in Nation/World

Paralyzed teen short on bid to buy gun firm

Ron Word Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Brandon Maxfield, 17, is shown in his lawyer Richard Ruggieri’s office Thursday in San Rafael, Calif..
(Full-size photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A California teenager left paralyzed in a gun accident a decade ago failed Thursday in his bid to buy the company that produced the Saturday night special that changed his life.

Brandon Maxfield’s final bid of $505,000 to buy Bryco Arms, one of the nation’s leading makers of inexpensive guns known as Saturday night specials, fell short. He had wanted to acquire it in order to shut it down.

Paul Jimenez, Bryco’s former foreman, bought the company for $510,000, in spirited bidding that increased by $5,000 increments from the opening bid of $175,000.

In an earlier hearing, Jimenez was sold the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company for $150,000, but U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Funk reopened the bidding when he ruled that notice of the previous sale was not properly given to potential bidders.

Maxfield’s mother, Sue Stansberry, cried when they lost the auction, but her son took the loss philosophically.

“We tried hard. It’s not because of lack of effort,” Maxfield said in his lawyer’s office in San Rafael, Calif. “It’s a game. We played it. Jimenez played the game better. He won – for now.”

Richard Thames, another lawyer representing Maxfield, said the teen will ultimately benefit from the increased amount Jimenez paid for the gun company since he is the major creditor in the bankruptcy of Bryco Arms and its former owner, Bruce Jennings.

“If there is a silver lining, Brandon holds 90 percent of the claims,” he said. He estimated it will be six to eight months before Maxfield sees any money.

Bryco was forced into bankruptcy last year when Maxfield won a record $24 million judgment against the company, its distribution arm and its owner. A jury in Oakland concluded that Bryco knew the pistol had a safety flaw.

Included in Thursday’s sale were about 75,600 unassembled guns. Maxfield hoped to buy the inventory, melt it down and create a sculpture from the metal.

When Maxfield was 7, a 20-year-old family friend who was baby-sitting thought he heard a suspicious noise and grabbed a gun from a dresser drawer. The baby sitter called the boy’s mother, who instructed him to immediately unload the .38-caliber pistol. While trying to do that, the baby sitter accidentally pulled the trigger.

The bullet struck the boy, shattering his spine.

The Oakland jury assigned more than half the blame to the boy’s parents and baby sitter, but said the gun maker also was liable because the pistol could be unloaded only when its trigger safety catch was switched off.

A trust established for the boy has collected $8.75 million from an ex-wife of Jennings and from the insurance company of a gun distributor. It has not collected any money from Jennings, who shuttered his factory, moved to Florida and put his manufacturing business into bankruptcy.

Maxfield is entering his senior year at Willits High School. Richard Ruggieri, who represented Brandon’s Arms, the organization created to bid on the gun company, said lawyers will attempt to secure enough money to make sure the teenager receives the 24-hour care he needs. Jennings still owns several sports cars and airplanes that attorneys will ask to be sold.

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