Forward Progress: Personal Injury Suits against Helmet Maker Moving Forward

After a delay and the conclusion of the NFL concussion litigation, the 95 personal injury suits against Riddell, the former official helmet supplier for the NFL, are moving forward. On May 18, 2017, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, a Pennsylvania federal court judge, issued a scheduling order for the claims against Riddell. Some of these suits were initially brought in 2012 and were later separated from the multidistrict concussion suit filed by ex-NFL players or their families.

A suit against Riddell by NCAA football players was dismissed in 2016 because the complaint failed to show the helmets had any manufacturing defects. However, the former NFL players are claiming Riddell failed to warn players of multiple head injuries leading to long-term brain damage even if Riddell’s helmets were properly worn. The players also allege there were possible defects with the helmet’s design.

Riddell marketed their helmet, the Revolution, as a way to decrease the likelihood of a concussion by 31 percent. The players allege Riddell knew this statistic was faulty, yet failed to disclose this information. A firm hired by Riddell to test the helmets stated, “no football helmet, no matter how revolutionary, could prevent concussions.” Riddell never disclosed this study, nor did they modify their marketing strategy. The author of the study was very blunt in stating, “No helmet can prevent a concussion. Full stop.” In response, Riddell maintains that the helmet meets all the usage and test requirements set by the National Operating Committee for Standards on Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Previously, Riddell has been found 27 percent fault in a Colorado trial, when a high school football player sued Riddell for a 2008 brain injury. In 2012, a jury found Riddell not responsible when another high school football player in Mississippi suffered a stroke after practice.

With Judge Brody issuing a scheduling order, attention now turns to see if she will allow a new master administrative complaint to surpass those claims that were part of the multidistrict NFL concussion suit. Riddell is expected to oppose a new administrative complaint and the additional fraud claims the plaintiffs filed last month. These added claims include fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment.

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