Youth Football Concussion Suit, Pop Warner Seeks to Exit

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Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. submitted a motion for summary judgment to U.S. District Court Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez for the Central District of California on October 25, 2019. Pop Warner is a named defendant in a lawsuit alleging the organization knew of, and hid, the safety risks associated with youth football. The youth football organization is asserting the plaintiffs’ lack of evidence to show it was aware of the alleged health risks until years later.

According to the complaint filed September 1, 2016, Paul Bright Jr. and Tyler Cornell participated in Pop Warner Youth Football between the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bright played in Nevada and Cornell played in California. It wasn’t until 2015 that medical professionals discovered the young men suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Both young men passed away in 2014 from behavioral issues stemming from the CTE diagnosis.

Pop Warner refutes the claims and contends that the plaintiffs failed to provide the evidence required to meet their asserted causes of action.

Pop Warner argues that they do not owe a duty to Bright and Cornell because the causes of CTE were largely unknown at the time the two young men were participating in youth football. Additionally, Pop Warner argues that the plaintiffs’ evidence does not establish general and factual causation between the injuries the young men experienced and their deaths. Again, CTE research was in its infancy at the time the young men played football. As such, there could not have been a correlation between playing football and head trauma. Therefore, general causation cannot be proved.

However, if general causation could be proved, the plaintiffs failed to establish factual causation in that Pop Warner football “was a substantial factor in the deaths” of the young men. In addition, Pop Warner asserted that the plaintiffs cannot establish false advertisement or misrepresentation. The plaintiffs failed to show that they viewed the advertising available on Pop Warner’s website during the times in which the young men played.

Notably, Pop Warner explained that they do not make or sell the football equipment the young men used during their time in Pop Warner football. Therefore, they failed to prove that Pop Warner falsely advertised the equipment and its safety. The young men stopped playing Pop Warner football in 2004 and the suit was not filed until 2016.

Lastly, Pop Warner argued that the suit is time-barred under California law. In California, there is a two-year statute of limitations for a negligence claim and a four-year limitation for a false advertising claim. The plaintiffs alleged that the cause of their sons’ deaths, CTE, was not discovered until 2015. Oral arguments for Pop Warner’s summary judgment motion are set to be heard before Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez on December 9, 2019.

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