The Lawsuit, Verdict and Bankruptcy
Brandon filed his personal injury lawsuit in May of 2001. After two years of Vigorous litigation, including two months of jury trial, the Alameda County California Superior Court on May 13, 2003 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 that the Bryco pistol was defective in design, and that it was a cause of Brandon Maxfield's total damages of approximately $51 million. The verdict and judgment were entirely for compensatory damages (medical expenses, earnings loss, pain and suffering, etc.), and were not inflated by claims for punitive damages or penalties.
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 bankruptcy filing precluded Brandon Maxfield from taking any steps to satisfy his judgment, and stayed numerous other lawsuits brought by injured parties and government entities around the county. In bankruptcy terms, Brandon and these other parties became known as "unsecured creditors," and were required to litigate the remainder of their cases and the collection of their judgments in the Florida bankruptcy court.
Over the next several years, the Florida Bankruptcy Court supervised the liquidation of the debtors' assets for the benefit of creditors. Debtors were first allowed to keep certain “exempt” assets, such as Bruce Jennings's Florida house valued at $1 million. Next the 11 debtors' several legal firms were allowed their accumulated years of legal fees, various administrative costs were settled, any secured creditors were paid, etc. After all these deductions, anything that remained was distributed among the unsecured creditors, one of whom was Brandon Maxfield with his $24 million judgment.
Brandon Maxfield and the other victim-creditors received only a small fraction of their damages judgments through the bankruptcy proceedings. While bankruptcy normally "discharges" a debtor from paying remaining amounts due, and allows him to keep post- bankruptcy earnings free and clear of those discharged debts, Brandon Maxfield challenged that normal result in this case. The Bankruptcy Court ruled that Brandon had proved asset hiding and bankruptcy fraud, refused to grant Bruce Jennings a discharge of his debts, and allowed Brandon Maxfield and the others to continue to pursue their damages.
When Bruce Jennings was convicted of distributing and possession of child pornography in 2013, the the federal government sought forrfeiture of the approximately $1 million property that Jennings had been keeping exempt from creditors. This "homestead" was the last asset remaining in Jennings’s name. Jennings settled the governments' forfeiture claim for $500,000. On behalf of himself and the other victim-creditors, who were not allowed to participate in the forfeiture negotiations, Brandon Maxfield has petitioned the government to allocate those forfeited funds toward compensating them for their personal injuries and damages, as reflected in their outstanding judgments against Jennings.