Products Liability Law Daily Dismissal of former NFL players’ claims against helmet makers affirmed
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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dismissal of former NFL players’ claims against helmet makers affirmed

By David Yucht, J.D.

Former NFL players who suffered from repeated concussions should have sought redress against the helmet manufacturers during their previous suit against the NFL.

A state appellate panel in Illinois affirmed a trial court ruling throwing out suits filed by former National Football League (NFL) players against helmet manufacturers on statute of limitations grounds. The suits, which were filed more than two years after the players discovered that they were injured, were time-barred even though the players had not known the exact nature or extent of their injuries at the time their causes of action had accrued. The appellate court also upheld the trial court’s denial of the players’ request for leave to amend (Butler v. BRG Sports, LLC, October 21, 2019, Griffin, J.).

Fifty-four former professional football players who had sustained numerous concussions and were suffering attendant neurological impairments sued the manufacturers of the helmets they had worn while playing. They alleged that the manufacturers knew about the dangers of repeated concussive traumas, but never warned the helmet users about these dangers and, instead, represented that their helmets protected the players. The complaints further alleged that the manufacturers conspired with the NFL to misinform players about the risks of long-term brain damage that could result from playing football. The NFL had previously settled similar lawsuits with these players and others for claims that the NFL failed to inform them about, and protect them from, the risks of concussions. The helmet makers’ motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds was granted by the trial court. The former players appealed.

Statute of limitations. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment dismissing the players’ claims, holding that the claims were barred by Illinois’ two-year personal injury statute of limitations. There was no dispute that the concussions the players suffered occurred more than two years before the cases were filed. In Illinois, the statutory limitations period starts to run when a person knows or reasonably should know of his injury and knows or reasonably should know that the injury was wrongfully caused. The former players argued that their claims were not time-barred because their suits were filed within two years of the players learning about the injuries for which they sought redress. They maintained that they did not and could not have alleged that they were suffering from one of the claimed disorders while they were participating in the federal class action against the NFL because they had not yet been diagnosed with the particular disorders. They further contended that the statute of limitations for their claims against the helmet manufacturers did not begin to run until they manifested the specific neurological impairment for which they were seeking damages.

However, the appellate court noted that one who knows he is injured need not know the exact nature or extent of his injuries for the statute of limitations to begin running. Consequently, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s finding that, because the players already had sued the NFL more than two years before filing their claims against the helmet manufacturers, the players knew about their injuries at the time of that first lawsuit. Therefore, the court ruled that the players could have sued the helmet manufacturers at the same time—more than two years before filing the cases considered here.

The appellate court also agreed with the trial court’s decision to deny the former players’ request to amend their complaints. The appeals court noted that the former players failed to explain how their proposed amendment would save their claims. According to the court, the proposed amendment would be futile because the outcome of the case was not dependent on the players’ diagnoses. Rather, it was based on their knowledge years ago that they were injured and that their injuries were wrongfully caused.

The cases are Nos. 1-18-0362 and 1-18-0394.

Attorneys: (Corboy & Demetrio) for Michael Butler. (Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC) for BRG Sports, LLC, EB Sports Corp., BRG Sports Holdings Corp., BRG Sports, Inc., Riddell Sports Group, Inc., Riddell Inc. and All American Sports Corp.

Companies: BRG Sports, LLC; EB Sports Corp.; BRG Sports Holdings Corp.; BRG Sports, Inc.; Riddell Sports Group, Inc.; Riddell Inc.; All American Sports Corp.

MainStory: TopStory SofLReposeNews SportsandRecEquipmentNews IllinoisNews

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