Thanks Crissi and the Press Democrat!
Thanks Crissi and the Press Democrat!
It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I share the news that Brandon Maxfield has died. Here is the official public statement:
Brandon Maxfield died on November 13th at age 29, at home in Willits, CA, due to complications from quadriplegia incurred at age 7 in the accidental discharge of a defective handgun.
Brandon garnered international notoriety in 2005 after obtaining a $24 million verdict against notorious Southern California-based ‘junk gun’ manufacturer Bryco Arms, when a unanimous jury found the handgun’s design was a significant contributing cause of his injuries. When the manufacturer declared bankruptcy, trying to recreate itself and sell off existing defective handguns, Brandon created nonprofit Brandon’s Arms to solicit public support and block the sale. While Brandon’s public bid to re-purpose the manufacturer’s assets ultimately failed, he succeeded in keeping over 20,000 unsafe semiautomatic pistols off the streets. At Brandon’s request, these handguns, which could have generated $2-3 million dollars to help with his medical expenses, were instead ordered destroyed by the bankruptcy court. As Brandon insisted, “I’m not going to let him put one more kid in a wheelchair.”
Brandon’s case resulted in the first ever U.S. jury verdict holding a functioning firearm defective in its safety design, after the manufacturer, attempting to hide a jamming problem, deliberately precluded the user from engaging the manual safety during unloading. Brandon’s case was notable for its refusal to enter the “guns are good / guns are bad” debates of previous litigation, insisting instead that guns should be made reasonably safe for the user and innocent bystanders, like any other consumer product. He is widely acknowledged to have singlehandedly forced the closure and expulsion from California of the country’s most prolific Saturday Night Special manufacturer.
During his shortened life Brandon’s selfless efforts were honored by the California State Legislature, the City of San Francisco, Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke about him on the Senate floor, and he appeared on every national news program. Brandon’s efforts were also recognized by the Legal Community Against Violence (now Smart Gun Laws), Public Justice, and the American Trial Lawyers’ Association, among others.
The book Move to Fire chronicles Brandon’s story and is currently under development as a feature length film.
Born and raised in Willits, CA, Brandon was well liked, socially active, a mega-fan of music and the WWF, and despite his disability, graduated from Willits High School with a 4.0 GPA. A private memorial service will be held by the family, who offer their gratitude to Brandon’s many friends and fans, and encourage them to post tributes to Brandon on the Move To Fire Facebook page.
At the family’s request, media inquiries should be directed to Mike Harkins, via Facebook.com/movetofire.
Here is the Los Angeles Times obituary:
Journalist Robin Abcarian did a nice profile piece on attorney Richard Ruggieri. Move To Fire is mentioned in article and in an accompanying photo you can see the book on a shelf behind Ruggieri. check it out here.
These are just a few notes from the notebook I used while watching attorney Richard Ruggieri’s closing statement in Brandon Maxfield’s case, which was the first time I saw the attorney ‘work.’ The note in the upper right references how Ruggieri had told his young client not to attend due to the sensitive, difficult issues Ruggieri would be talking about. Upper left are quick notes about the jury, and below are notes about Ruggieri explaining that he wasn’t asking for sympathy for Brandon, but rather for empathy. Although I’d done some research on the story prior to this day, Ruggieri’s closing statements and his masterful connection with the jury convinced me to write Move To Fire.
Move To Fire was at the top of the featured books in Publishers Weekly’s first every IndieWatch list!
Aug 2014, PEOPLE magazine featured Brandon and his mom, Sue
These are the instructions that Bryco tried to hide, better known as the instructions that couldn’t be followed because the gunmaker changed the safety design to hide the gun’s feed jam flaw.
Continuing from Chapter One:
Twenty-four hours before the shooting, and six-hundred miles south, in Anaheim, California, a fax was transmitted from Brown & Wilcox, a commercial insurance underwriter, to an agent at an insurance brokerage, regarding Bryco Arms, the manufacturer of the Bryco Model 38.
Bryco had just come off of a good year, with $7,000,000 in sales from 1993-1994, and $14,000,000 sales projections for the next year. The small, privately owned company held the top spot of the small handgun industry. Sales for the Bryco Model 38 were more than $2,500,000 dollars. But the company had been negotiating the cost of liability insurance. The current policy had officially lapsed on April 1st. The new policy would be almost $250,000, an almost $40,000 increase.
Bryco Arms and other small handgun manufacturers were seeing increasing premiums across the board. Market forces, changes in gun laws, especially in California, growing anti-gun sentiment, bad press and a slow but steady rise in litigation against gun makers had insurance companies re-evaluating their clients. The makers of small guns were serious liability risks, and the insurance companies that continued to insure handgun manufacturers had increased premiums and narrowed coverage. As Bryco Arms’ policy neared expiration and the company shopped around for a new policy, three major insurance companies declined to quote coverage for the company.
Bryco Arms negotiated with its insurance agent until the liability coverage expired on April 1, 1994. An offer was made to extend coverage until April 8th, for an additional $8,000, but, as the broker noted on an April 5th fax to the commercial underwriter, “…it is my feeling the insured will not be renewing with us. He feels the cost is too high…”
And so, two days before seven-year old Brandon Maxfield had been wheeled into his small town’s emergency room, closer to death than life, unable to breathe on his own, his spine shattered just below the base of his skull, the manufacturer of the Bryco Model 38 had chosen to ‘go bare’ — Bryco Arms was now without insurance to compensate anyone injured by a defective Bryco handgun.
Brian Fies is a personal and professional friend. His review was unsolicited and, frankly, unexpected. With his permission, I included this part of his review on the book’s Amazon Page: “…like a legal thriller…the suspense is compelling. Move to Fire isn’t an anti-gun screed. Move to Fire is a passion project by a writer who knows how to mine facts, build characters, and use them to tell a terrific story. I found it an engrossing, well-built narrative that pulled me through, page by page.” — Brian Fies, award winning author of Mom’s Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow.
You can access the complete review here: Award-winning author’s review of Move To Fire