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Youth Football Lawsuit Against Pop Warner Continues

California U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez dismissed part of the second amended complaint in a suit against Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc. ("Pop Warner"), which accuses the organization of lacking safety protocol to protect players from head injuries. Pop Warner is not in the clear, however, as Judge Gutierrez allowed claims of fraud and negligence alleging the company misrepresented its safety practices.

The case was initially brought by Kimberly Archie and Jo Cornell ("Plaintiffs"), who lost their sons following youth football careers. It was later discovered that both boys suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease.

Judge Gutierrez allowed counts of fraud, fraudulent concealment, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation, but dismissed claims relating to the causes of action concerning California's Unfair Business Practices Act and Unfair Competition Law. The Court agreed with the Plaintiffs that Pop Warner heightened its youth players' risk of head injury by neglecting to establish league-wide guidelines.

Judge Gutierrez held that "Pop Warner Little Scholars argues that the fraud claims fail because head trauma is an inherent risk of tackle football...PWLS misrepresented that safety was its top priority, with coaches trained in head injuries, equipment that afforded the best protection, and rules and procedures designed to protect children from injury - all with the knowledge that none of this was true, to boost the number of Pop Warner participants."

Defendant, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment ("NOCSAE"), attempted in July to move the case to Kansas, where its headquarters are located, and Pop Warner, based in Pennsylvania, argued the case should be dismissed because the court did not have jurisdiction.

However, the Plaintiffs argued for jurisdiction in California because of the Defendants' active presence in California, which is the only state that requires the annual recertification of football helmets to meet NOCSAE standards. If, as Plaintiffs allege, these standards actually increase players' chance of harm, the state has strong incentive to change the law.

Judge Gutierrez found NOCSAE to be insufficiently involved and dismissed them from the case. The aforementioned charges against Pop Warner will proceed, a reversal of the Court's determination in May 2017 that the organization lacked sufficient contacts with California and was not subject to the state's jurisdiction.

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating securities matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier ([email protected]) or Chiharu Sekino ([email protected]). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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Hanson, Joyce. "Pop Warner Can't Escape Youth Football Concussion Suit." Law 360. Last modified on October 20, 2017.

Kennedy, John. "Youth Football Orgs Dodge Suit Over Head Injuries, Deaths." Law 360. Last modified on May 15, 2017.

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