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Troy Schwant
Troy Schwant
Attorney • (800) 574-4332

The beginning of the end for football?

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Two days ago, a Colorado jury awarded 11.5 million in a lawsuit against Riddell and several high school coaches and administrators over a child's brain injuries incurred as a result of playing football. Does this jury award signal the beginning of the end as football as we know it? Its possible. Here is the USA Today article on the jury award:

A Colorado jury has awarded $11.5 million in a lawsuit originally brought against helmet maker Riddell and several high school administrators and football coaches over brain injuries suffered by a teenager in 2008.

The ruling comes as the company faces a similar lawsuit in Los Angeles, plus a complaint by thousands of former NFL players against the league and Riddell.

Riddell said it planned to appeal the verdict but was pleased that jurors rejected allegations regarding helmet design defects.

"While disappointed in the jury's decision not to fully exonerate Riddell, we are pleased the jury determined that Riddell's helmet was not defective in any way," the company said in a statement. It said it believes it designs and manufactures the most protective football headgear for athletes.

The jury in Las Animas County found that Riddell was negligent in failing to warn people wearing its helmets about concussion dangers. The jury assessed 27 percent of the fault for Rhett Ridolfi's injuries, making the company responsible for paying $3.1 million of the damages.

Ridolfi's family sued Riddell and his coaches after Ridolfi suffered a concussion in a Trinidad High School football practice. He wasn't immediately taken to the hospital and now has severe brain damage, as well as paralysis on his left side.

Three people reached confidential settlements before Saturday's verdict, but two coaches were still defendants at the trial. Ridolfi's lawyer, Frank Azar, said Sunday that he'll ask a judge to find Riddell responsible for paying all $11.5 million in damages.

Riddell contends that the court erroneously excluded testimony from its warnings expert, though Azar disputed that.

"I think this jury has said they're in very serious trouble," said Azar, who said he is representing between 10 and 20 former NFL players with complaints against Riddell.

In October, a jury in Mississippi found Riddell wasn't responsible for an injury to a high school football player who had suffered a stroke after a practice.

In my opinion, you will see hundreds of lawsuits like this across the country and the biggest issue that this will present to football as a sport, will be the inability for high schools, pee wee programs and colleges to obtain insurance for the kids playing the sport. If a high school can't obtain insurance for injuries that their students may have, its distinctly possible that they will simply have to shut down the sport.

Combine this decision with the ongoing litigation against the NCAA by former and current athletes to split up the revenue that colleges and the NCAA receive and it is a brave new world that is facing America's favorite sport.

2 Comments

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  1. Shaun Mason says:
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    I’m simply amazed at these stories. I realize the effected party in the lawsuit was a child, but he had parents who know the risks of football very, very well. At what point does personal responsibility matter?

    To me, this is like trying to litigate against Ferrari for making fast cars. If you drive above the speed limit, there is an inherent risk you may be injured. Likewise, football is a sport designed around collision. It’s a known entity, the risk should be obvious.

    -S

  2. Troy Schwant says:
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    Shaun,

    I have a feeling that a large portion of the american public is going to agree with you based on the minimal facts we have about the case.

    Personally, I would like to read more about the details of the case. Did Riddell make the helmet as safe as possible? Did they know that their helmets weren’t protecting kids from concussions and brain damage.

    When I played football, I knew that some of the risks meant a broken leg or a torn ligament, but I never once had anyone tell me that I may have brain damage as a result of playing football. It was simply never discussed. I doubt it was here.