Former Colo. Student-Athlete Wins $3.1M From Riddell in Lawsuit
In a lawsuit filed by the family of an injured Colorado student-athlete, a jury has ruled against Riddell, the country's largest football helmet maker, for failing to adequately warn about the dangers of concussions.
In a decision last weekend, the company was ordered to pay 27 percent, or $3.1 million, of the total $11.5 million awarded to the now 22-year-old Rhett Ridolfi, who was originally injured during a high school football practice in August 2008. (It's unclear who's responsible for the remainder of the damages, according to the NFL Concussion Litigation blog.)
Ridolfi's attorney, Franklin D. Azar, claims that the boy suffered a head injury while participating in an early-morning "machine gun" drill. Instead of going straight to the hospital, Ridolfi remained at practice, which allegedly led to permanent brain damage and partial paralysis on one side of his body, according to Azar.
According to sports-law expert Alicia Jessop, author of the Ruling Sports blog, the jury likely ruled against Riddell because the warning label on Ridolfi's helmet failed to disclose that it may not protect against concussions.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has specifically singled out Riddell in the past for allegedly using misleading claims about a helmet reducing the risk of concussions.
The jury rejected, however, the argument that the padding in the Riddell helmet used by Ridolfi wasn't safe enough.
"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, according to The New York Times. "We are confident that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had the Court not erroneously excluded the testimony of our warnings expert."
In a statement, Azar said he'll ask a judge to find Riddell responsible for paying all $11.5 million in damages. He expects Riddell to appeal the decision.
Currently, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment oversees the safety standards on football helmets. The current NOCSAE football-helmet standards require helmets to withstand a 60-inch free fall (a test to prevent fractured skulls), but do not require helmets to be tested against the forces suspected of causing concussions.
A joint Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study released last year found that most of the hardest hits for youth football players typically occur during practice, not games.
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