Jury Awards $11.5 Million Against Riddel, the Largest Helmet Maker

A jury in Las Animas County District Court in Trinidad, Colorado has found that Riddell, the country’s largest helmet manufacturer, was at fault for failure to adequately warn players who wear their football helmets, about the potential dangers, including concussions.

Riddell was ordered to pay several million dollars in damages to a 22-year-old man who was injured while playing high school football in 2008.

This is a rare victory for all those who have previously sustained injuries while wearing football helmets. This could provide a prelude to a similar case by retired NFL players, who have also sued Riddell.

According to the verdict, Riddell is responsible for $3.1 million, or 27 percent of $11.5 million in damages, which were awarded to Rhett Ridolfi, the high school football player who sustained severe head injuries.

Ridolfi’s family originally sued Riddell and several high school administrators and football coaches after Ridolfi suffered a concussion in a Trinidad High School football practice in 2008. He was not immediately taken to the hospital and now he has severe brain damage, as well as paralysis on his left side.

Several of Ridolfi’s coaches were also found to be negligent, but will not have to pay damages.

The jury rejected the claims relating to design defects in Riddell’s helmet.

“While disappointed in the jury’s decision not to fully exonerate Riddell, we are pleased the jury determined that Riddells’ helmet was not defective in any way,” the company said in a statement. “We are confident that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had the Court not erroneously excluded the testimony of our warnings expert.”

“We intend to appeal this verdict, and we remain steadfast in our belief that Riddell designs and manufactures the most protective football headgear for the athlete.”

Three Defendants reached confidential settlements before the verdict, but two coaches were still Defendants at the trial. The trial judge will be asked to find Riddell responsible for paying all of the $11.5 million of the damages.

In October, a jury in Mississippi found Riddell wasn’t responsible for an injury to a high school football player who had suffered a stroke after a practice.

A similar case is set to begin in Los Angeles in a few weeks.

In the NFL case, more than 4,000 retired football players and their spouses have sued the league, claiming that the league knew about the long-term health risks associated with repeated concussions and head trauma.

Riddell has been named in the same lawsuit, which has been consolidated in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Most helmet manufacturers follow safety standards set by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).  Critics have accused the industry-supported association for not setting more rigorous safety standards and having too many conflicts of interest to be considered an unbiased arbiter.

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