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Football helmet manufacturers face litigation over misrepresentation in advertising

February 16, 2017

In recent years, the issue of head injuries has gained increased public attention, due in part to litigation against the National Football League for failing to properly care for head-injured players while sitting on research highlighting the long-term dangers of repeated concussions. As the conversation has become more widespread, attention has been drawn to college and high school football injuries, and the responsibilities of individuals and organizations at those levels.

One of the targets in the ongoing litigation is football helmet manufacturers, who have been blamed for failing to design adequately protective equipment. Although manufacturers have largely been able to fend off design and manufacturing defect claims, misrepresentation claims may be something of an Achilles heel.

Ohio-based Riddell, in particular, is facing potentially numerous misrepresentation claims, and the litigation could prove costly to the company. Over 140 cases are pending in federal court, while a number of other cases are pending in Illinois state court. The latter are headed toward trial. The Illinois cases specifically involve the claim that Riddell misrepresented the protective abilities of some football helmets, especially in the mid-1990s. While the helmets did protect against skull fractures, serious hematomas and fatality, they did not protect from more minor brain injuries and their long-term effects. Riddell is also facing the claim that it conspired with others to falsely advertise their products s protective equipment.

The big focus of the litigation, of course, is the fact that the football helmets did not protect against concussions. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the topic of concussions, not only in the context of product liability litigation, but also in the context of car accident litigation.