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Sports Equipment Liability

Lawsuit happy America is at it again, only this time around the target is the manufacturers of sports equipment. Lawsuits in the sports equipment industry are nothing new. As early as 1970, landmark lawsuits against sports equipment manufacturers began to erode the industry, raise consumer prices for sporting equipment due to the cost of liability insurance on behalf of manufacturers, and make many sports equipment manufacturers shut their doors “In the 1970s the exodus from the helmet business by different brands was under way…it followed a $1 million damage award in a Florida case” (Sanford, 1994, 1).

When it comes to the helmet manufacturing industry, the deleterious effects on the sports equipment industry are most sharply felt. In the early 1970s there were eighteen manufacturers of football helmets. Now, after millions of dollars in lawsuits and consistently rising liability insurance costs, there are only two manufacturers of football helmets left, Riddle, Inc., and Schutt Sports Group. Frivolous lawsuits against sports equipment manufacturers are the biggest reason for the loss of rivals, but so, too, are the successful lawsuits that are often awarded to victims because of sympathetic juries more than real liability. As one critic of America’s legal system comments about the impact of frivolous or misdirected lawsuits “Jobs in some industries have been decimated. For example, lawsuits have drained the U.S. sports safety equipment and private airplane industries so they are only shadows of their former selves” (Mahoney, 1994, 1).

One case in particular helps show the problems confronting the judicial system and manufacturers of sports safety equipment. When he was an 18-year-old senior at Hawthorne High School, Tommy Phillips played football. He wore a helmet manufactured by Riddell, Inc. In 1998, while Hawthorne was playing against Newton High, Phillips collided with a member of the opposing team....

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Sports Equipment Liability. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:29, May 31, 2020, from