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Adams v. BRG Sports, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

November 21, 2017

MARK ADAMS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRG SPORTS, INC., et al., Defendants.

         ORDER: (1) DISMISSING DEFENDANT ALL AMERICAN SPORTS CORPORATION WITHOUT PREJUDICE ON IN PERSONAM JURISDICTION GROUNDS; (2) TRANSFERRING ACTION TO THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS AS TO DEFENDANT BRG SPORTS, INC. PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1406 AND AS TO DEFENDANT RIDDELL, INC. PURSUANT TO § 1631; (3) TERMINATING AS MOOT PENDING MOTIONS AT ECF 30, 31, 32, 52 WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          BETH LABSON FREEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In the wake of the media firestorm that has rocked the sport of football surrounding the long term effects of concussions, thirty-four former college football players from around the country have filed a products liability action against the companies involved in the manufacturing, marketing, and sales of the helmets they wore. These college football players (the “Players”) allege that Riddell, Inc., BRG Sports, Inc., and All American Sports Corporation (collectively, “Defendants”) are liable for their negligent manufacturing of football helmets over a thirty-year period including their failure to warn players of the risks of brain injuries. See Complaint, ECF 1. The Players chose to bring this action in the Northern District of California, but here's the catch: none of the Players currently reside or ever played football in California, and none of their injuries occurred in California. In fact, none of the three defendant companies sued by the Players is incorporated or headquartered in California.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, ECF 30, as well as a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with respect to Defendants Riddell and All American Sports, ECF 32. Defendants also moved to sever the Players' claims into thirty-four distinct lawsuits. See ECF 31. The Players opposed all of these motions, and filed a motion to amend their complaint. See ECF 52.

         The Court held a hearing on these pending motions on October 5, 2017. After an extensive discussion at the hearing, while the matters were under submission, the Players informed the Court of their plan to resolve a number of the issues raised in Defendants' motions. See ECF 61. Importantly, the Players stated their intent to dismiss All American Sports from this action entirely, and to seek a transfer of the remaining claims against Riddell and BRG Sports to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

         The Court held a further status conference on November 9, 2017. At that time, the Parties informed the Court that they would stipulate to a dismissal of All American Sports without prejudice on in personam jurisdiction grounds. The Parties further stipulated to a transfer of the claims against Riddell and BRG Sports to the Northern District of Illinois.

         At the status conference, although the Players indicated a willingness to amend their Complaint to conform to this Court's tentative ruling at the hearing, the Defendants requested a formal ruling on their motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The Court finds that it would be improper to issue a formal ruling on Defendants' motion to dismiss in light of the Parties' stipulated transfer, which, at the Defendants' specific request, is based on lack of personal jurisdiction over Riddell, and based on improper venue with respect to BRG Sports. Nevertheless, the following order lays out the Court's reasoning on Defendants' motion to dismiss, and GRANTS the Parties' stipulated request to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs in this action consist of thirty-four former collegiate athletes (the “Players”) who played football at different colleges and universities at different times over the course of decades. See Compl. ¶ 20, ECF 1. The Players allege that they all suffer from “several symptoms indicative of long-term brain and neurocognitive injuries.” Id. At all relevant times, the Players allege that they “wore Riddell helmets” that Defendants were in the business of “selling, manufacturing, designing, testing, engineering, marketing, modifying, assembling, inspecting, distributing, and controlling.” Id. ¶¶ 20, 70. Because the Players suffered concussions and other symptoms of brain injuries despite wearing Defendants' allegedly defective helmets, they brought this products liability action against BRG Sports, Inc. (“BRG Sports”), Riddell, Inc. (“Riddell”), and All American Sports Corporation (“All American”) for negligence, design defects, and failure to warn of the danger and risks associated with concussions. See generally Compl.

         Specifically, the Players seek to hold Defendants liable for breaching their duties to properly educate their helmet users of the long-term damages resulting from helmet use, as well as their failure to mitigate injuries associated with the foreseeable use of their products, and failure to provide adequate warnings to their helmet users. Id. ¶¶ 16, 118, 123, 127. The Complaint contains allegations that the Players have suffered permanent injuries or remain at an elevated risk for injuries and latent brain damage as a result of Defendants' conduct. Id. ¶ 2. These serious neurocognitive injuries include “memory loss, dementia, depression, and CTE and its related symptoms.” Id. ¶¶ 20, 175.

         In their Complaint, the Players lay out a comprehensive background on concussions and brain injuries, including a “primer on concussions” as well as a detailed history of football helmet design. See, e.g., Compl. at 7-20. The Complaint also includes a thorough history of Defendant Riddell's business, and its role in developing the helmets at issue as well as its various marketing campaigns over the years. Id. at 20-30. However, as further discussed below, the only information about the Players themselves is contained in a list of their names in the case caption and an incomplete list of the colleges and universities where they played football, which are not tied to a specific player or time period. Importantly, the Complaint does not include the years or locations where each Player played football or wore Riddell helmets, or any salient facts regarding their football careers and injuries they sustained.

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

         The Parties stipulated to a dismissal of Defendant All American Sports Corporation on November 14, 2017. See ECF 67. The Court hereby GRANTS the Parties' stipulation to dismiss All American on in personam jurisdiction grounds. Therefore, the Court's comments regarding Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are addressed only with respect to Defendants Riddell and BRG Sports.

         At the outset, the Court notes that it would be improper to issue a formal ruling on Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss because it is inconsistent with the Parties' stipulated request to transfer this action to the Northern District of Illinois for lack of personal jurisdiction over Riddell, and for improper venue with respect to BRG Sports. See ECF 65 at 3. However, because Defendants have requested a more formal summary of this Court's determination regarding the deficiencies it identified in the Players' ...


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