Federal Lawsuit Filed in California Regarding Dangers of Youth Football

On September 1, a lawsuit was filed in California U.S. District Court against Pop Warner, the United States’ largest league for youth football. The class action was filed by the mothers of two now-deceased players. The suit claims that the organization put players at risk by consciously disregarding the dangers of football-related head trauma.

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The lawsuit suggests that youth football leagues are the next target in the ongoing influx of litigation regarding concussions. This class action is the greatest challenge to youth football yet. The lawsuit was filed as the NFL continues to accrue substantial legal fees to fight similar allegations. The NFL recently agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle a major case. The NCAA and college football programs have also been fending off litigation.

The case was brought by plaintiffs Jo Cornell and Kimberly Archie, two mothers whose sons were discovered after their deaths to have traumatic encephalopathy, a chronic neurological condition resulting from repeated head trauma. The suit alleges that Pop Warner failed to adequately oversee games, rules, equipment, and medical care to minimize brain injuries resulting from repetitive hits. It further alleges that Pop Warner failed to correctly diagnose brain injuries. These failings, the suit alleges, evidence Pop Warner’s “callous indifference.” The suit asks for unspecified damages for players, dating back almost two decades.

Unlike other cases that have targeted the NFL, the recent complaint lists as defendants USA Football–the group that creates football helmet safety standards–and the National Operating Committee on Standards Athletic Equipment (Nocsae).

The Pop Warner lawsuit could suggest that smaller leagues might be targeted next. Accordingly, youth leagues nationally are starting to increase training and safety precautions. Moreover, Pop Warner has experienced decreased player participation over the past few years.

The recent class action is not the first lawsuit Pop Warner has had to defend. Earlier this year, Pop Warner settled a lawsuit with parents whose son after committing suicide was discovered to have a degenerative brain disease due to repeated head hits. This year, Pop Warner also settled a different case brought by the mother of a Los Angeles player whose son was paralyzed due to head trauma.

The recent lawsuit also attacks USA Football for using flawed research–as investigated and reported by the New York Times in September–to support its Heads Up Football program, which trains coaches on how to teach “safe tackling.” USA Football has received millions of dollars from the NFL.

The suit finally accuses Nocsae of certifying helmets that were not adequately designed to protect younger players and moreover misrepresenting their safety. Nocsae allegedly has no helmet safety standard specific to young players.

Pop Warner’s and Noscae’s executive directors said their organizations had not seen the complaint. Noscae’s director, however, states that his organization never claimed any helmet could prevent any football-related head injury. A spokesman for USA Football did not respond to a request for comment.

The sports accident lawyers at Neumann Law Group represent victims of accidents throughout the Los Angeles area. Call us at (213) 227-0001 for a free consultation.

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