On April 13, 2013, a five-year legal battle after a devastating sports injury resulted in a multi-million-dollar verdict against Riddell, the largest helmet manufacturer in the USA, for failing to warn football players who used their product about the risks of concussion. The jury verdict was obtained by Franklin D. Azar & Associates on behalf of its client, Rhett Ridolfi, who’d been severely injured during a high school football practice.
The New York Times reported that the verdict “is a rare victory for those injured while wearing football helmets. It could provide a prelude to a parallel case brought by NFL retirees, who have also sued the company.” More than 4000 former National Football League players sued the league and Riddell, claiming both entities didn’t do enough to address the risks of concussions and head trauma associated with the sport; although the NFL reached a settlement with former players, the class-action suit against Riddell is ongoing.
In 2008 Ridolfi, a resident of Trinidad, Colorado, had been a player on the Trinidad High School Miners football team when he was injured in a helmet-to-helmet collision during a morning practice exercise known as a “machine gun drill.” He was not immediately taken to a hospital and suffered bleeding inside his brain, causing brain damage and partial paralysis. Azar & Associates brought claims against the coaches involved in the incident as well as against Riddell.
In reaching its $11.5 million verdict, the jury found that Riddell had failed to sufficiently warn users about concussion dangers. The panel assessed 27 percent of the fault for Ridolfi’s damages to the company, amounting to $3.1 million. In 2015 the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the question of the various parties’ degree of liability could be retried, but that the total amount of damages awarded would remain intact. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear Riddell’s appeal of the case, and the parties later reached a settlement.
Reacting to the verdict, a writer on The Business Of College Sports website observed that the case “likely has larger implications than the damages which Riddell is facing paying…it demonstrates juries’ willingness to hold helmet manufacturers liable for failing to adequately warn of the injuries football players can sustain even while wearing a helmet.”