Former College Football Players File Class Action Against Riddell Helmet Manufacturer

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by Steve Larson

Several former college football players have filed a class action against football helmet maker, Riddell Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The players allege that Riddell lied about the level of protection from head injuries the helmets provided.

The plaintiffs in the case, 35 former collegiate players, allege that Riddell promoted its Revolution brand helmets as providing players with 31% more protection from concussions than other leading helmets on the market. At the time of the helmets’ debut on the market, Riddell was basing its false safety claims on what Plaintiffs now describe as a “shaky study” published by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The study in question was eventually deleted from all major Riddell advertising materials in 2011 after the Federal Trade Commission began an investigation into the veracity of the results and also into the possibility of a conflict of interest on the part of the study’s authors.

Riddell’s Revolution helmets are padded with urethane foam, which the company promoted as the safest means of protection; however, Plaintiffs argue that as far back as 1999, consultants hired by the company concluded that front pads made from vinyl nitrate would provide greater protection to players for similar manufacturing costs of urethane foam. Plaintiffs further allege that the defendant company was presented with additional information about opportunities to improve the product’s safety in 2003; it was found that thermoplastic polyurethane in the rear and side pads would offer players a higher level of protection against concussions than the current designs. However, rather than improving upon existing product designs, Plaintiffs accuse the company of putting profits above player safety. The complaint alleges that Riddell failed to adequately warn players of the risks associated with wearing the helmet, especially the risk of concussion.

In addition to this new case, Riddell also faces a number of other lawsuits, including false advertising claims in New Jersey and West Virginia and a wrongful death suit in Pennsylvania filed by the widow of a former NFL player who died of a brain aneurysm in 2009.

The new class action is: Mark Adams et al. v. BRG Sports et al., case number 3:17-cv-00457, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.