Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Pop Warner for Concussions in Football

Kids playing football A lawsuit has been filed against Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., alleging that the company knowingly and fraudulently put its players in danger by ignoring the risks of head trauma. The suit also names as defendants USA Football, the youth football arm of the NFL, and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), the organization that sets standards for athletic safety equipment.

Plaintiffs

The lawsuit was brought by Kimberly Archie and Jo Cornell on behalf of all persons and their parents who participated in Pop Warner tackle football between 1997 and the present who are suffering or have suffered from brain injuries, damage, or disease.

Kimberly Archie is a surviving relative of Paul Bright Jr., who participated in the Pop Warner program from 1997 to 2004. Archie alleges that Bright died from erratic and reckless behavior and that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Archie is a legal consultant who appeared in a Sports Illustrated story, “Endgame,” about the increasing amount of head injuries in football. Archie has been described as, “Erin Brockovich with a neurologist’s grasp of traumatic brain injuries.”

Jo Cornell is a surviving relative of Tyler Cornell, who participated in Pop Warner from 1997 to 2002. Jo Cornell alleges that Tyler Cornell took his own life and that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has been linked to repeated hits to the head.

Allegations

The lawsuit alleges that Pop Warner failed to adequately monitor games, practices, rules, equipment, and medical care “to minimize the long-term risks associated with brain injuries including repetitive sub-concussive hits.”

The lawsuit claims that USA Football has promoted safety programs with questionable value and has issued flawed research that its programs effectively reduce the risk of concussions. The lawsuit argues that USA Football misrepresented the benefits of its Heads Up Football program that trains coaches how to teach “safe tackling” techniques.

The lawsuit also alleges that NOCSAE has certified helmets that were not designed to protect younger players and has exaggerated their safety benefits. Mike Oliver, executive director of NOCSAE, has stated that his organization has never claimed that any helmet was safe and that all the helmets approved by his groups include permanent warning labels that state, “no helmet can prevent all head or any neck injuries a player might receive while participating in football.”

Related Cases

The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas Girardi and Robert Finnerty, who were the lawyers for some of the former NFL players who sued the league for concealment of the dangers of repeated hits to the head. The NFL has agreed to settle that case for hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The Illinois High School Association was recently sued by football players over head injuries. A judge dismissed that case, noting that “imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned.”

Last year, the family of Joseph Chernach sued Pop Warner in a wrongful death lawsuit. Chernach committed suicide in 2012 and it was later revealed that he suffered from CTE. Chernach’s family argued that he suffered multiple head injuries while playing football and the Pop Warner coaches were not properly trained to identify those injuries. The lawsuit settled for an undisclosed sum of money.

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