“Colorado jury awards $11.5M to family in helmet lawsuit”

by Walter Olson on April 16, 2013

“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.” While the jury rejected the plaintiff’s claim of design defect, it accepted the theory that the helmet maker should have done more to warn of concussions. “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.” Riddell has been hit with a wave of lawsuits from both school and professional football players. [AP, Denver Post, earlier](& Coyote)

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04.19.13 at 11:47 pm


1 Mike 04.16.13 at 9:59 am

“I think this jury has said they’re in very serious trouble,” says the boy’s attorney about Riddell. I think it is the game of high school football that is in serious trouble.
I am not a fan of HS ball, and do not care if it is eliminated altogether, but to hold an equipment manufacturer liable for failure to warn about concussion, a danger which is obvious and notorious, just seems wrong.

2 Mannie 04.16.13 at 10:29 am

Making safety equipment is about the most dangerous thing you can do.

Putting on my hat of omniscience (be very afraid) if I was Riddell, Schutt, or another helmet manufacturer, I’d raise the price of youth helmets a hundred bucks or so to build a lawsuit fund. I’d pay good dividends and bonus the hell out of top executives. I’d want the company to be poor as a protection. Take the money and run.

3 gitarcarver 04.16.13 at 12:47 pm

To be used in high school, every helmet has to have two labels on it. The first is an embossed National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (or “NOCSAE” – most pronounce it “knock-see”)label which says the helmet was made according to standards. This is so you can’t use a helmet that doesn’t meet manufacturing standards for safety. The other sticker is the warning label.

The old Riddel label read:


Do not strike an opponent with any part of this helmet or face mask. This is a violation of football rules and may cause you to suffer severe brain or neck injury, including paralysis or death.

Severe brain or neck injury may also occur accidentally while playing football.


The new warning label reads:



Do not use this helmet to butt, ram, or spear an opposing player. This is a violation of the rules and such use can result in severe head or neck injuries, paralysis or death to you and possible injury to your opponent.

Contact in football may result in CONCUSSION-BRAIN INJURY which no helmet can prevent. Symptoms include: loss of consciousness or memory, dizziness, headache, nausea or confusion. If you have symptoms, immediately stop playing and report them to your coach, trainer and parents. Do not return to a game or practice until all symptoms are gone and you have received MEDICAL CLEARANCE. Ignoring this warning may lead to another and more serious or fatal brain injury.

Yeah, changing the wording of the label is going to make a difference.

In over 25 years of officiating football, I have never met a coach or player who had read the label. I have never met a coach or player knowing that it is a requirement that the NOCSAE label and warning label even be on a helmet. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, but I have never met them.

4 Bob Neal 04.16.13 at 12:53 pm

Football as we know it will be gone in 15 years if this keeps up. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t know, but for it to be destroyed by lawsuits is simply wrong.

Football will go the way of the community pool diving board. There’s a reason we don’t produce top olympic divers anymore.

5 Jamie R 04.16.13 at 3:12 pm

That’s weird. I would hope the fact that you have to wear a helmet would be sufficient to put you on notice that you might hit your head. I would think a reliance argument would make more sense, if you could somehow show that Riddell said the player would be safer than he actually was, and the player relied on that to his detriment.

6 peter 04.17.13 at 1:22 pm

“helmet maker should have done more to warn of concussions.”

What should they have said? “So why do you think you are wearing a helmet, numnuts?”

7 Turk 04.17.13 at 2:49 pm

The hard helmets give a false sense of security to its users; and then they get used as weapons.

It is ironic that helmets with a soft exterior may actually prove to be safer, as it would discourage so many head smashing collisions and help to soften the blows.

8 dan 04.19.13 at 11:19 am

give ‘em spaceball helmets, that’ll prevent concussions!

9 Steve 04.26.13 at 10:00 am

If you want to lower the incidence of head injuries in football, remove the face guard… This simple act will stop many players from leading with their head…

10 J.S.Bridges 05.02.13 at 1:21 pm

“If you want to lower the incidence of head injuries in football, remove the face guard…”

This MIGHT be considered comical – if it wasn’t so inherently and potentially-dangerously stupid. There was a time when helmets did not have face guards, not even a single bar (much less the multi-bar “face cage” or the nearly-full-coverage transparent faceplates now increasingly used) – the addition of the bars was to reduce the incidence of mouth/jaw, nose and eye injuries that were becoming more and more common.

Removing the face guard would, without any doubt, increase the incidence of injuries, as there would be an increase in broken jaws and noses, eye pokes (from elbows, etc.0 and the like, with little or no lessening of other types of head injuries.

Football Rule One: If you play the game, you get injured sometimes.

Football Rule Two: The harder you play, the more frequent – and the more serious – the injury(ies)

No exceptions to the rules – and that’s why they call it “the breaks of the game”. S**t happens – and the only real reason a lawsuit like this succeeds is in two parts: 1) There’s always someone who seeks either a “guarantee” that, no matter what, they won’t get hurt, or a way to punish someone legally when they do, and 2) If it’s possible to go after at least one (or, preferably, more than one) “deep pockets” defendant, and the suit succeeds, the award will be a huge payday.

Is that the insurance industry warming up their actuarial tables on the sidelines?…

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