Riddell Helmet Safety Suit Moved to Illinois
On November 22, 2017, California federal judge Beth Labson Freeman transferred the putative class action against Riddell and its parent company BRG Sports Inc. to Illinois. Former college football players had brought the suit against Riddell and BRG Sports, alleging that the companies lied about the protection its helmets offered against concussions. The case also alleged that Riddell and BRG Sports used a shaky study to advertise unsafe helmets and failed to upgrade the designs to prevent concussions. Judge Freeman decided the proper venue for the case was Illinois because BRG Sports had relocated to Illinois to be closer to Riddell.
In addition, the court granted dismissal of claims against All American Sports Corp., a New York based company that refurbishes sports equipment, so the suit could be moved to Illinois. All the claims against All American Sports were dismissed without prejudice, so they could be brought again in a different suit. The former players sought transfer after the judge requested the players to address the companies’ concerns over the complaint’s failure to identify the universities where they played, the years they played, or their injuries.
The former players requested the suit be moved to Illinois due to the location of the parties. BRG Sports operated in California at the time the lawsuit was filed; however, it since moved to Illinois. The transfer of venue against Riddell was argued on federal law, which allows a party to transfer a case to the proper venue when no connection to the initial forum remains. The claims against All American Sports were asked to be dismissed because both California and Illinois would lack jurisdiction over the claims. The court ultimately sided with the former players because BRG Sports had relocated, no players were California residents, no helmets were purchased in California, and no injuries were pled to have occurred within California.
In response to the change in venue, Riddell’s counsel, Paul Cereghini, stated, “Riddell will aggressively defend this specious litigation in the new venue and will pursue all the relief to which it is legally entitled for having to respond to these meritless claims. As the long-established leader in the football helmet industry, Riddell is well prepared to defend claims like these in full vindication of its products and reputation.”