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An Oakland, Calif., jury, which awarded $50.9 million Wednesday to a 16-year-old boy, also decided a gun maker is at least one-third liable in the shooting that left the boy a quadriplegic. The award — $10.4 million for medical costs and other economic damages and $40.5 million for pain and suffering — was announced in Alameda County Superior Court Judge John Kraetzer’s courtroom in the case of Brandon Maxfield. Maxfield was injured in a 1994 shooting. “This verdict sends a message that the jury thinks that guns can be made safer,” said Victoria Ni, an attorney at Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, which assisted with the case. “That is contrary to what the industry has been arguing.” Brandon Maxfield was 7 years old when his baby sitter accidentally shot him in the jaw while unloading a .38 caliber handgun. In Maxfield v. Bryco Arms, 841-636, which was filed on Maxfield’s behalf, the gun maker Bryco Arms was being sued for product defect liability. The suit alleged the guns were unsafe because they had various problems, including the fact that they required the trigger lock to be released before unloading. The jury found Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Bryco Arms at least one-third liable. The gun’s designer and owner of Bryco, Bruce Jennings, was also found liable. The gun’s distributor, a pawnshop, was found 30 percent liable; the shooter — a family friend who was babysitting — 20 percent. The award comes just as members of Congress are considering legislation that would limit liability in suits like Maxfield. The House version of the National Rifle Association-backed bill, H.R. 1036, has already passed; the Senate version, S. 659, is awaiting action. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who has been openly critical of the federal legislation, thinks the jury’s verdict is a timely reminder of the harm these new bills will do if passed. “The verdict shows the importance of preserving people’s access to the judicial system to address their legal concerns and the ability of the courts and juries to discern fair outcomes,” Herrera said. Bryco manufactures inexpensive handguns known as “Saturday Night Specials.” Ni said the verdict is the first time Bryco had been found guilty of product liability in California, and only the second time nationwide. In Anderson v. Bryco Arms, 00-L-007476, Bryco was sued in Illinois in connection with white supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith’s 1999 shooting spree that left two dead and nine wounded. Maxfield’s attorney, Richard Ruggieri, of San Rafael, Calif., and Bryco’s attorney, Michael Hewitt of Bruinsma & Hewitt in San Clemente, Calif., could not be reached for comment.

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