Notable Case: Product Liability

Our client was a high school hockey player who sustained quadriplegia (permanent paralysis from the chest down) from a burst fracture of his cervical spine after striking the dasher boards of a hockey rink headfirst.  We sued the manufacturer of the hockey helmet that provided a woefully inadequate energy management system to absorb the forces that were transmitted to the neck.

Contrary to popular belief, such injuries are not flukes.  A rash of neck fractures occurred in Canada after hockey helmets were mandated there.  Players, sensing contact with the dasher boards, would put their heads down and take the blow to the top of their helmets.  Several Massachusetts players suffered these injuries.  In those days - before players were instructed to play "heads up" hockey - most coaches, trainers, parents and players didn't know the dangers associated with taking a blow to the top of the helmeted head. This risk of injury was compounded by a sense of invincibility felt by many young athletes due to their own physical prowess plus the false sense of safety from their protective equipment.

In preparing the case, we did some testing of our own.  By replacing the foam inside the helmet with a better foam, we doubled the energy attenuation capability of the helmet.  We welcome the work being done currently to improve sports helmets.

The manufacturer ultimately filed for bankruptcy and the case was settled, allowing our client to move from his parent's house to a home of his own with the care he needed.


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