Former player sues over gridiron injuries

Suit seeks damages from district, Riddell

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SANDPOINT — The family of a Bonner County teen who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a football game is suing the West Bonner County School District and the manufacturer of the former student-athlete’s helmet.

Robert Clark II and Julie Clark are seeking damages from the school district and helmet manufacturer Riddell for negligence and product liability. The suit, filed on behalf of Robert “Bobby” Norman Clark III, was filed in 1st District Court on Sept. 24.

West Bonner County School District Superintendent Ellen Perconti did not respond to requests for comment late Friday or on Monday.

Bobby Clark was a varsity offensive and defensive lineman for the Priest River Lamanna High School Spartans when he was injured in a game against Timberlake High School on Sept. 30, 2011.

Sandpoint attorneys Todd Reed and Margaret Williams allege in the suit that Bobby Clark was briefly removed from the game, but put back into play by unidentified coaches. Approximately two plays later, he returned to the sidelines and collapsed.

“He was unconscious, disoriented and obviously suffering from a head injury and/or brain injury,” Reed and Williams said in the suit.

Bobby Clark was flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he underwent emergency surgery and was placed on life support, according to the lawsuit.

Counsel for the Clarks contend suffered permanent and irreversible disability, the full extent of which is not fully known. The suit seeks in excess of $10,000 in damages for medical costs, lost earning ability and mental suffering.

The plaintiffs contend the school district staff didn’t comply with Idaho high school requirements for evaluating head injuries and negligently put him back into the game.

The suit further alleges that the Riddell helmet Bobby Clark was wearing was defective and failed to protect him.

Riddell was sued in U.S. District Court in Mississippi, but the helmet maker prevailed in 2012.

The company emphasized that no piece of equipment is capable of preventing all injuries in active sports, according to a news release announcing the verdict.

However, The Associated Press reported in April that a jury in Denver found Riddell partly at fault for the partial paralysis of a high school gridder. A jury ordered the manufacturer to pay $3.1 million of an $11.5 million judgment in the case, although Riddell intended to appeal the judgment.

The wire service noted that the lawsuit in Colorado was similar to complaints filed in Los Angeles and New Orleans as well as to another suit brought by thousands of former National Football League players who claim the league hid information about the dangers of brain injury.

The former players sued the league and Riddell, the official helmet of the NFL. The NFL seeks to settle the suit for $765 million, although Riddell is not part of the proposed settlement, according to the AP.

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