Hernandez’s Daughter Adds Helmet Maker in Refiled CTE Suit
On October 16, 2017, Aaron Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle Hernandez, filed suit in Massachusetts state court against the NFL and helmet maker Riddell Inc. for Hernandez’s post-death diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This suit was filed a few days after Avielle’s lawyers withdrew her suit in federal court against the NFL and the New England Patriots. However, the New England Patriots were left out of the Massachusetts state court suit. Avielle’s attorney stated that a separate action involving the Patriots will be filed at a later date.
The Massachusetts state court suit alleged that the NFL and Riddell concealed and downplayed the risks of playing football in the manufacturer’s helmets. Riddell was the NFL’s official helmet provider for more than two decades. Avielle further claimed, “Aaron relied to his detriment on the representations made by the intentional-concealment-fraud and conspiracy; his decisions with respect to football would have been different, had there been no intentional concealment for football-exposure related risk.” The complaint also alleged that the NFL’s and Riddell’s efforts created a time-bomb in Aaron, and did so to perpetuate the football industry. After his suicide, Hernandez was examined and diagnosed with stage three out of four of CTE, at the age of 27. Generally players around the age of 67 have stage three CTE. Some of the symptoms of CTE are: impulse control issues, aggression, depression, dementia, and suicidality. At the time of his death, Hernandez was serving life in prison for the 2013 murder of a friend.
Riddell responded to the suit, and claimed that it would “vigorously and successfully defend” its products and reputation against Avielle’s claims. The company also stated that it introduced its first helmets that were specifically designed to mitigate concussion risk more than 15 years ago. With those helmets, warnings were written to raise concussion awareness and promote concussion treatments. The NFL is no stranger to CTE based suits, with multiple lawsuits filed against it and other professional sports leagues, and it signed on to an uncapped settlement in 2015 that could end up paying out $1 billion to thousands of players.