The Court should grant summary judgment in favor of Adidas and against Plaintiff Jason Heap (“Plaintiff”) because there are no genuine issues of material fact, and Adidas is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff has claimed that Adidas, Team USA and the Major League Soccer franchise are liable for his allegedly serious and permanent injuries sustained as a result of a defectively manufactured soccer ball, and the forced practice of heading balls during practice and games. Plaintiff has suffered a concussion from a certain practice injury, and is found to have exhibited symptoms of Concussive Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The practice ball was manufactured by Adidas and upon inspection, was found to have a defective leather component rendering it several times harder than a normal soccer ball.
Plaintiff should not prevail on a product liability or negligence claim against Adidas. Under a product liability claim, the Plaintiff does not have to establish fault, but needs to show proof of the defect, that the product injured him, and the injury was the result of the defective product. To establish a negligence claim, Plaintiff must prove that Adidas owed him a duty of care; that Adidas breached that duty; that the breach was the actual cause of his injury; that the breach was the proximate cause of his injury; and that he suffered actual harm as a result of Adidas’ negligent conduct. Plaintiff has to demonstrate that but for Adidas’ negligent manufacturing, he would not have been injured, and that Adidas should have foreseen the risk of injury or harm that is alleged to have occurred.
In this case, and based upon the facts known at this time, there is no evidence that the concussion was the sole, partial, or actual cause of Plaintiff’s concussion. Likewise as to the claim for CTE. While CTE is often seen in NFL players, with respect to a game that has inherently more contact, it is not impossible that a soccer player who has undergone multiple concussions could receive such diagnosis. In this case, Plaintiff was also a basketball player at the college level and there is no evidence presented that establishes that the concussion sustained during the use of the defectively manufactured ball are the lone concussion that Plaintiff has suffered. Nor is there evidence that ties the concussion directly to the act of heading a defective ball. In other words, Plaintiff fails to establish that the ball was the actual or proximate cause of his injuries as claimed. Plaintiff also fails to present evidence that he was clear of any concussion prior to having the sharp pain and loss of consciousness at practice, and given his role as a professional soccer player and Team USA member, there is a high likelihood that he could have suffered some form of contributing injury prior to making contact with the ball.
Plaintiff has also failed to establish that leather that is several times harder than a normal soccer ball is sufficient to result in CTE or a concussion. Plaintiff fails to show that Adidas was negligent in its manufacturing practices and/or that it ignored the inherent risks associated with a mistake that cause the ball’s leather to be harder than normal. Simply put, Plaintiff lacks the the requisite proof needed to prevail on a claim for product liability or negligence, and accordingly, a grant of summary judgment in Adidas’ favor is appropriate.