New Aaron Hernandez lawsuit claims NFL player had ‘horrendous existence’ due to avoidable trauma

Attorneys for the estate of Aaron Hernandez refiled a lawsuit against the National Football League and helmet maker Riddell, Inc. on Monday, in which they claimed years of repetitive head trauma caused a “horrendous existence” for the late football player.

Hernandez took his own life in his prison cell in April at the age 0f 27.

The Boston Globe reported last week that an earlier lawsuit filed by against the NFL and the New England Patriots in federal court in Boston was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the suit could be refiled at a later date.

According to the Boston Globe, the new 86-page civil complaint filed in Norfolk Superior Court in Massachusetts names the NFL and the Riddell company, the league’s official helmet manufacturer from 1989 to 2013.  

As CrimeOnline previously reported, researchers analyzed Hernandez’s brain at the request of his family, and found that at the time of his death he suffered from Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease strongly linked to repeated head trauma.  Boston University researchers stated that Hernandez had the most severe case of the disease that they had ever seen in someone his age. 

The suit filed Monday claimed that Hernandez “experienced a chaotic and horrendous existence in many respects, due to his [previously] undiagnosed brain injury,” adding that CTE can cause symptoms of  “aggression, explosive behavior, loss of concentration, mood swings, depression, apathy, and cognitive impairment.”

The legal complaint asserts that the NFL and Riddell are liable for Hernandez’s condition because they downplayed the risks of repeated head trauma incurred through years of playing football while wearing the equipment manufacturer’s helmets.

Riddell company spokesperson told the Boston Globe on Monday that the company will continue to defend its products, and that it began a campaign over 15 years ago to “enhance concussion mitigation [in helmets] and awareness.”

Both the league and the helmet manufacturer have been named in multiple lawsuits over the years as awareness has grown about concussions and the implications of CTE.  A 2016 New York Post article referenced a lawsuit filed by approximately 1,000 former NFL players who claimed that Riddell and the league ignored evidence about the shortcomings of the helmets in protecting against head trauma.

According to a 2012 New York Times article, the NFL allows players to choose their own helmet, as long as it is certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.  

A helmet laboratory test report on the website of the NFL’s “Play Smart. Play Safe” program ranks 33 models of helmets that can be worn by NFL players.  Of the 14 models categorized in the report’s “Top Performing” group, only four are branded Riddell, none in the top six.  The model ranked first on the list is the VICIS 01, which an August CBS Sports article called “the safest helmet in football,” manufactured by a new startup company gaining traction and distribution in both the NFL and college football.


[Feature image: Associated Press]