At this point, you have probably heard about the high profile lawsuit being amassed against the National Football League (NFL) on behalf of current and former football players affected by head injuries caused by concussions. In short, the affected players are alleging that the NFL kept a tight lid on the serious, long-term health problems associated with concussions. Players involved in the suit have suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, depression, and other ailments attributed to traumatic brain injuries.
Kreithen, Baron & Carpey has taken an interest in how this lawsuit plays out, for many reasons, one of which is that the master complaint which is consolidating suits filed for over two thousand plaintiffs is being presided over in a Philadelphia federal court (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania). For the time being, our city is setting the scene for a lawsuit which could change how the NFL deals with its players, and for that matter the relationship between players and owners in all of sports!
To read more on the details of the master complaint, see our related blog post. In this article, however, we will focus on the tort claims which have been focused on Riddell Sports, the helmet manufacturer for the NFL.
The issue is that Riddell has, as part of promotions, reported that their helmets are effective in preventing concussions. Darren Heitner, a Forbes contributor, uncovered an article once printed in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (June 16, 2006), in which Riddell account manager Marty Cothern reportedly stated that Riddell's Revolution helmet "was designed to protect players from concussions..." And indeed the helmet was marketed as capable of reducing concussions by as much as 31 percent.
Judging by the studies we wrote about in our other NFL piece, the Revolution helmet doesn't seem to have done its job. The fact that Riddell is a defendant in the master complaint indicates that the claims by the football player plaintiffs include theories of liability that the helmets designed were defective and unsafe, and that, like the NFL, Riddell was secretive about the risk of concussions for players.
Even if the lawsuit fails to land a sizeable blow to the NFL, Riddell could stand to be left hurting when all is said and done. The manufacturer could be found liable in the products liability aspect of the claim.. But even if Riddell escapes liability, the company's helmets may no longer be worn by more than half of NFL players. The NFL's contract with Riddell may be up for review in 2013 -- and the League may just want to distance itself from the manufacturer.