A former Colorado prep football player who suffered severe brain damage and paralyzation from a concussion during a practice five years ago won an $11.5 million lawsuit against the nation's largest football helmet manufacturer and several high school officials over the weekend, according to an Associated Press report.
The ruling could open up Riddell Sports Inc. and other helmet makers to countless lawsuits from athletes at all levels. Similar litigation has already been brought against Riddell in Los Angeles and by thousands of former NFL players, the AP reported.
After deliberating until 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, a Denver jury ordered Riddell -- makers of the Official Helmet of the NFL -- to pay 27 percent of the damages ($3.1 million) to former Trinidad (Colo.) High football player Rhett Ridolfi for failing to sufficiently warn its customers of concussion dangers.
Ridolfi suffered a concussion in an August 2008 football practice and was not rushed to a hospital. When he was later diagnosed with severe brain damage and paralyzation on his left side, the family sued Riddell as well as several Trinidad coaches and administrators.
While three defendants previously settled in court prior to this weekend's ruling, two coaches remained as defendants in the trial, according to the AP. The family's lawyer, Frank Azar, will reportedly seek all $11.5 million from Riddell in a judge's ruling.
Naturally, Riddell attempted to put a positive spin on a decision that could potentially lead to its demise. The company issued the following statement to the AP: "While disappointed in the jury's decision not to fully exonerate Riddell, we are pleased the jury determined that Riddell's helmet was not defective in any way.''
While Riddell insists it manufactures the most protective equipment around, the company has marketed its helmets as effective in reducing the risk of concussions. Azar, who also represents a number of NFL veterans in lawsuits against Riddell, expects the company to appeal the jury's decision, he told The Denver Post.
Following the suicides of multiple former NFL players in recent years, including 12-time Pro Bowler Junior Seau in 2012, concussions have become the most hotly debated issue at football games across the country. Most of those games feature Riddell helmets.