These consolidated appeals arise from an important issue facing professional athletics and contemporary culture as a whole. Former professional football players are developing significant neurological disorders after sustaining repeated concussions while playing football. Evolving scientific and medical research has uncovered a link between repeated blows to the head and developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and other neurological impairments.
The plaintiffs in these cases are former professional football players who have sustained numerous concussions and are suffering the attendant neurological impairments. They have already sued the National Football League in a federal class action case and have entered into a settlement with the NFL to address their grievances. The same former players, however, now seek relief from the defendants — the manufacturers and designers of the helmets they wore while playing football. These plaintiffs alleged that the helmet manufacturers have long known about the dangers and the harmful effects of repeated concussive and sub-concussive traumas, but they never warned the users of their helmets about the dangers; instead, they represented that their helmets were protecting these players.
The defendant-helmet manufacturers moved to dismiss these cases on the ground that the cases are barred by the two-year statute of limitations covering personal injury actions in Illinois. In response, the plaintiffs argued that the cases were not time barred because the lawsuits were filed within two years of the players learning about the injuries for which they seek relief. The trial court found that, because the players had already sued the NFL more than two years before filing these cases, the players knew about their injuries and, therefore, could have sued the helmet manufacturers at the same time – more than two years before filing these lawsuits. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their claims. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the plaintiffs’ claims were indeed untimely and upheld the dismissal.