A federal judge in Miami has dismissed multiple claims without prejudice in a putative class action lawsuit against two football helmet manufacturers. The claim was filed by a father who purchased the defendants’ helmets for his two sons, both of whom are high school football players. Concern over injuries to youth in sports, particularly traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, has led to closer scrutiny of athletic equipment and more claims for damages when equipment malfunctions or defects cause injuries to players.
Most lawsuits rely on the legal theory of products liability, which holds the manufacturer or distributor of a faulty or defective product liable for damages caused by the product. In this case, the plaintiff pleaded breaches of contract and warranty, as well as violations of consumer protection statutes. The court found that he did not plead his claims with sufficient substance, but gave him until July 20 to amend the complaint.
Frank Enriquez filed suit against Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. (EBSI) and Riddell, Inc. in February 2012 over the line of football helmets known as Revolution Helmets. He states in his amended complaint that the defendants marketed the helmets as offering greater protection against concussions in young players, claiming a thirty-one percent reduction in the likelihood of concussion in athletes that used Revolution Helmets.
The defendants allegedly rely on a 2003 <a href="http://www.riddell.com/wp-content/uploads/Neurosurgery_Study3.pdf" title="EXAMINING CONCUSSION RATES AND RETURN TO PLAY IN
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYERS WEARING NEWER HELMET
TECHNOLOGY: A THREE-YEAR PROSPECTIVE COHORT STUDY” target=”_blank”>study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to support their concussion claims. The complaint cites other doctors who question the reliability of the UPMC study, based on concerns about the study’s methodology and conflicts of interests between the defendants and the study authors. Further research, Enriquez claims, suggests that youth football helmets are not effective in preventing concussions. He identifies all other purchasers of Revolution Helmets as a potential class. Enriquez does not at any time indicate that either of his sons, or anyone else connected to him, suffered an actual concussion.
In their motion to dismiss, defendants asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims for failing to plead the elements of the allegedly breached contract, failing to show the elements of an implied warranty, and failing to state the case for consumer statute violations. It also asks the court to strike the class action allegations. The court dismissed all eight counts of the complaint without prejudice, but gave Enriquez time to amend his complaint to fix the defects. The court did not grant the motion to strike the class action allegations, though, calling it “premature.”
Plaintiff’s claim appears at first to involve damages for injuries, such as a concussion, resulting from a faulty or defective football helmet. Since no injury appears to have actually occurred, however, his claim is based more on the allegation that the defendants misrepresented the helmets’ safety features. The main evidence alleged in his complaint consists of competing academic studies assessing the helmets’ level of concussion protection. Proving breach of warranty or some other form of misrepresentation may depend on getting a jury to believe an expert who says the UPMC study is wrong. To prove liability for a marketing defect, as when a product is unfit for its advertised purpose, an actual injury would have to have occurred.
The South Florida products liability attorneys at Cohn & Smith help people who have suffered injury due to dangerous or defective products to recover compensation for their damages. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today online, at 954 431 8100, or at 305 624 9186.
Amended Class Action Complaint (PDF), Enriquez v. Easton-Bell Sports, Inc., et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, February 29, 2012
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and to Strike Class Action Allegations with Supporting Memorandum of Law (PDF), Enriquez v. Easton-Bell Sports, Inc., et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, April 9, 2012
Order on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and to Strike (PDF), Enriquez v. Easton-Bell Sports, Inc., et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, June 15, 2012
Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Time to File Second Amended Complaint (PDF), Enriquez v. Easton-Bell Sports, Inc., et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, July 2, 2012
More Blog Posts:
Sports Injury to a Minor, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, October 28, 2011
Kids and sports injuries, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 11, 2011
University Enters Mediation With Parents of Football Player in Wrongful Death Case, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, December 20, 2010
Photo credit: ‘Thunder Football Helmet’ by Underdog80 on stock.xchng.