A recent court decision could have serious implications for the NFL as a judge has awarded a $3.1 million judgment to a brain damaged Colorado high school student and his family. The case was against Riddell, the NFL’s official helmet supplier, and claimed the company failed to adequately warn users of the risks of concussions.
This is bad news, since it could be perceived as a mini version of the highly publicized lawsuits naming Riddell and the NFL as co-defendants are pending a Philadelphia judge’s decision as to if the courts have the legal right to rule in the matter.
The Colorado student who won against Riddell is Rhett Ridolfi, who was participating in football drills in 2008 when he suffered a brain injury. Ridolfi wasn’t immediately treated which resulted in serious brain damage and paralysis on the left side. The lawsuit was against Riddell, as well as the coaches who failed to act immediately.
Riddell maintained the helmet contained design defects, which Frank Azar, the attorney for Ridolfi, said wasn’t the issue at hand. Instead, the reason Riddell was at fault is their claim that their helmets protect against head trauma, as Azar argued:
“Riddell set this phony-baloney standard about concussion risk,” he said. “If they had told the truth, and said, ‘You have a 50 percent change of getting a concussion with this helmet,’ what mother or father would let their kid play football in a Riddell helmet? And you can still buy this helmet today.”
According to Deadspin, Riddell intends to appeal, and expressed disappointment the judge threw out a testimony from the company’s expert.
If Ridolfi wins throughout his appeal process, it could mean a dark future for Riddell. The lawsuits from over 4,000 former and current NFL players maintains Riddell and the NFL hid the real dangers of traumatic brain injury from players as well as exaggerating safety benefits of their helmets. The players also contend that helmets that are reportedly safer than Riddell’s were rejected by the NFL’s concussion panel based on the advice of a consultant who previously worked for Riddell.