Out of Time: Ex-NFL Players’ Suit Against Riddell Time Barred

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In July 2016, a group of former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the sports equipment manufacturer, Riddell, Inc., in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. However, on October 21, 2019, Illinois’s First District Appellate Court ruled that the players’ suit is time barred by the “two-year statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in Illinois.”

In their complaint, the players alleged Riddell “failed to warn” that their “plastic helmets could not protect” the players against concussions or long-term neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, the players asserted that the sports equipment manufacturer “promoted [their] helmets as ‘safe’” and failed to warn the players about long-term health risks.

The trial court reached its conclusion because the players participated in the NFL Concussion Litigation cases and could have filed suit against Riddell at that time. The case was dismissed as having run afoul of the statute of limitations in personal actions. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s findings because the 53 former players from this case were also involved in the NFL concussion litigation.

Had the players filed suit during the course of the NFL concussion litigation, then it would have been within the allotted two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions in Illinois. In response, the players argued that they filed suit against Riddell within “two years of the players learning about the injuries for which they seek redress.” They further maintained that “the statute of limitations for the specific neurodegenerative disorder they now face could not have accrued until [they were] diagnosed with the disorder.”

The appellate court found the players’ argument without merit. The court ruled that the players “had sufficient knowledge to assert claims against the NFL, so they had sufficient knowledge to assert them against Riddell.” Instead, the players “chose to enforce their claims against the NFL only and, despite being presented with the opportunity, made a conscious decision to not pursue any claims against Riddell.”

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