Former Football Player Paul Hornung Sues Riddell

Last week, we wrote an article about how there is no such thing as safer football. For more than a century, officials have tried to promote measures that would make the game of football safer. Today, we look at a lawsuit against a protective helmet company that claimed their equipment makes the game safer.

football legend Paul Hornung

This is a photo of Packer legend Paul Hornung. This was the Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on October 2, 2011. The Green Bay Packers won 49-23. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Elvis Kennedy)

The company is Riddell, who makes plastic helmets with face masks, and the person suing is the Hall of Fame Green Bay running back Paul Hornung. Riddell is one of the entities that claim to make the game safer but don’t measure up.

The helmet is said to protect against skull fractures, which it does. However, Hornung is suing because they did not warn him about the risk of brain damage, particularly concussions. The N.F.L. reported 271 concussions this season from practices, pre-season games, and regular season games.

In this latest lawsuit against Riddell, it seeks damages of at least $50,000. That number is just stated as a minimum for jurisdictional purposes. The claims if the case gets to trial will certainly be higher. Riddell is the biggest sports helmet manufacturer in the country. The company also is a co-defendant in a class action lawsuit filed by thousands of former football players. They blamed Riddell and the NFL for concealing the dangers of concussions from them.

Hornung is limiting this suit Riddell, to take his case out of the umbrella of the NFL class action suit. Hornung is 80 years old. In his days of Notre Dame college football, he wore a leather helmet with no face mask. It wasn’t until the N.F.L. that he started using a plastic helmet with a face mask.

Helmets are used more to deliver big hits than to protect the person on the receiving end of a big hit, said former Steelers receiver Hines Ward on the Dan Patrick Show. Players will lead with their head in order to use the plastic helmet as a weapon. The question remains whether or not plastic helmets do more harm than good, as they can cause brain injury.

Hornung’s complaint was filed in the state court of Illinois. It stated that the plastic helmets “provided no protection” against brain trauma. “Prior to, during and after Paul Hornung’s N.F.L. football career, Riddell knew of the harmful long-term effects of brain trauma sustained by football players while wearing Riddell’s supposed protective equipment; however, it misrepresented and concealed these facts from Paul Hornung,” the complaint stated.

Hornung’s lawyers told the New York Times that players believed that the plastic helmets would provide more protection, so they were emboldened to take more risks in play than they would have otherwise.

“Riddell made promises to everyone who wore the helmet, and the evidence will show that they built an industry based on the safety of the device, analogous to filters on cigarettes,” one of the lawyers representing Hornung, Brad Sohn, told the New York Times. “People relied on them to make the game safer, when it in fact made it more dangerous.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

More Posts - Website - 312-767-9383

TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle Plus