Maxfield lived out most of his life paralyzed from the neck down and hooked up to a ventilator at night. He was a 7-year-old in 19994 when he was accidentally shot in the neck with a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol by his babysitter. The sitter was trying to unload the cheap gun, which required the safety to be turned off.
His story gained national prominence in 2003 when he successfully sued the gun manufacturer Bryco Arms, and the founder cum gun designer, Bruce Jennings.
The Oakland, Calif. jury awarded him $24 million, finding that the gun was defective.
During the trial, Maxfield’s lawyer, Richard Ruggieri., argued that Jennings purposely covered up a known jamming issue with the gun.
The problem could have been fixed for a nickel per gun, according to Maxfield’s attorney, Richard Ruggieri. However, in a risky move the manufacturer elected to issue instructions rather than face a recall which would have involved fixing the issue. Jennings changed the instructions by telling customers to take off the safety before pulling back the slide.
Ruggieri compared that to taking off your seatbelt right before a car accident.
The landmark victory marked the first ever U.S. jury verdict holding a functioning firearm defective in its safety design, according to gun control advocates, accountable. Ironically, Bryco declared bankruptcy which made it difficult for Maxfield to collect the judgement. In the end he collected less than $5 million.
However in addition to fiscal responsibility, Maxfield’s also requested the bankruptcy court destroy, the inventory of handguns, which could have generated millions in sales to help with his medical expenses.
“I’m not going to let him put one more kid in a wheelchair,” he said at the time.
Gun control advocates say his lawsuit helped keep over 20,000 unsafe semiautomatic pistols off the streets. Still, many of the Bryco guns remain in use, largely due to their low estimated cost of less than $150.
Bryco founder, Jennings himself pleaded guilty to child porn charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2013.
Brandon Maxfield and his advocacy efforts were honored by the California State Legislature, the City of San Francisco, Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke about him on the Senate floor. The case highlighted the dangers posed by the recklessness of manufacturers. It played a large part in nearly wiping out the notorious ‘Ring of Fire’, a phrase used to describe several major gun manufacturers whose factories were located around Los Angeles.