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Caleb Leone’s family sues helmet manufacturer

LANA MUTHLER/THE EXPRESS Caleb and his mother Danielle share a moment in their home last year.

WILLIAMSPORT — The parents of a former Jersey Shore Area High School football player disabled by a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2018 claim their son’s severe brain injury was caused by defective equipment.

Danielle M. and Jacob Leone in a suit transferred Monday into U.S. Middle District Court claims Riddell Inc., BRG Sports Inc., Riddell Sports Group Inc. and All American Sports Corp. were aware of the defects and did nothing about them.

The Leones claim their son Caleb, then a senior defensive end who is now 20, was wearing a Riddell helmet when injured during an Aug. 14, 2018, football practice.

He was flown to Geisinger Medical Center near Danville, where part of his skull was removed to help with the healing process. He was in a coma for nearly two months and his parents said it was touch and go for nine days.

Complications he endured included aspirating into his lungs, pneumonia, blood pressure issues and a stroke.

His football conditioning is what kept him alive, his father said doctors told them.

After 22 days at Geisinger his parents transferred Caleb to the pediatric center at Penn State Hershey for rehabilitation.

He remained there except for a brief period in November 2018 when doctors at Geisinger replaced the part of his skull that had been removed.

Five of Caleb’s motor skills have been damaged and the right side of his body is not working, his mother said.

He is confined to a wheelchair, continues in therapy, is now speaking a little but not with clarity and is in a life skills program at school, his father said.

According to the lawsuit Leone’s injuries are permanent and he will require around-the-clock care the rest of his life.

“Caleb’s accident took a toll on the whole family,” Danielle Leone said a few months after the injury. It has been a challenge,” she said, noting there were days he could not hold his head up.

The suit accuses the defendants of negligence and failing to design, manufacture and test a football helmet that would adequately protect the brains of adolescents.

They also are accused of marketing a helmet without adequate instruction on its use and without warning of the dangers.

The Leones are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

The complaint states BRG Sports is a holding company that owned or operated the two Riddell entities and All American Sports. The latter is based in Ohio and the others in Illinois.

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