Mother sues helmet manufacturer after son dies from injury in football game

The mother of a Bogan High School football player who died last year is suing the manufacturer of his helmet and the Chicago Board of Education, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

Andre Smith, 17, suffered blunt force trauma to his head during a football game on Oct. 22, 2015, and died the next day, court records state.

The suit was filed by Jeanine Smith, the administrator of Andre’s estate. She is being represented by Brion Doherty of the Chicago firm Motherway & Napleton, LLP.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County circuit court, alleges an air bladder inside a Riddell brand helmet intended to increase protection was not properly inflated, and that the board of education supplied the improperly working helmet to Andre Smith.

Riddell declined to comment about the pending litigation. A message seeking comment this week from the Chicago Board of Education was not returned.

Andre Smith was blocked from making a tackle during one of the last plays of the game Bogan was playing against Chicago Vocational High School on Oct. 22, 2015, at Stagg Stadium in Chicago, court records state. The block was delivered to the left side of Andre Smith’s Revolution Speed helmet and was “incidental contact” between the blocker and a tackler.

The play forced Andre Smith’s head and helmet to hit the ground with great force, court records state. After the hit, he reported feeling dizzy and having a headache before falling from seizures. Andre Smith remained unresponsive as emergency medical personnel rushed him to a local hospital, where he underwent a CT scan that found bleeding and swelling next to his brain. He never woke and was declared at the hospital.

An inspection of Andre Smith’s helmet found the crown air bladder lost half of its air pressure after five minutes, while the rear air bladder lost 10 percent of its air pressure 10 minutes after being inflated, court records state.

The lawsuit alleges the board of education knew the helmets required proper inflation to minimize the risk of head injury and failed to ensure the helmets were appropriately inflated. It also claims it failed to provide timely and appropriate medical care after Andre Smith suffered the head injury.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Riddell should have known their helmet was “unreasonably dangerous” if the bladders were not inflated and that the company failed to warn about the risk.

Andre Smith joined the school’s varsity football team in 2015 after the season had already begun, court records state.

Smith had attended Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, where he played football, and transferred to Bogan. His mother and stepfather lived in Country Club Hills, but his family said Andre Smith had been living in Chicago with a family friend while attending Bogan.

Follow this link to learn more about Andre Smith’s case.

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