August 21, 2019
Morgan T. Dilks, Esq.
Former Steelers and current (maybe) Raiders wide receiver, Antonio Brown, has been a great source of material this week. After ceasing communications with his team last week, he has resurfaced. It turns out that Brown’s absence (if not entirely, at least in substantial part) has been the result of a dispute over the helmet that he wants to wear. Brown has worn, until this year, a helmet that was taken off of the “approved” list of helmets the NFL uses, for safety reasons. The NFL seeks to compel Brown to wear a helmet that is approved by the league, or, presumably, to not play football.
This week, Brown’s camp, through an anonymous source, has broken its silence to declare that “if [Brown] suffered a head injury in a helmet that he is compelled to wear, he would hold the league liable.” Further, the anonymous source stated that if he was compelled to wear a different helmet than his helmet of choice, and he was to sustain an injury, “the liability will be dramatic.”
The liability won’t be “dramatic,” it will be non-existent. Brown would have to prove something called “causation.” In essence, Brown would have to sustain an injury to his head, then prove that the injury he sustained would not have happened in his old helmet, which would be nearly impossible to do.
This raises an important point for employers to keep in mind. “Liability” can be a scary word when it is thrown around recklessly. The word can be used to bully employers who don’t know how to protect themselves into unjustly giving in to unreasonable, and sometimes dangerous, demands. In Brown’s case, injury liability might actually be more provable against the NFL if the league was to cave under the threats of “liability” and allow him to wear a helmet that they have already determined to be unsafe.
The NFL has an army of attorneys on its side. Those attorneys are (probably) not reading this article to determine whether there’s any chance of liability being imposed on their organization. Many smaller employers don’t have the legal horsepower within their organizations that the NFL has, and as a result it can be easy to get pushed around.
It’s important for employers to understand the laws that govern their business. Employers need to know what liability issues they could potentially face, what liability issues they will not be facing, and how to tell the difference between the two. If you have an NFL sized legal team at your disposal, that shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t, I can help.
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