Parents Failed To Show That Football Likely Caused Their Sons’ Deaths

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Nov 05, 2021

Parents Kimberly Archie and Jo Cornell filed a lawsuit against Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., (Pop Warner) alleging that Pop Warner failed to provide for the safety and health of their children.  Specifically, Archie and Cornell alleged that Pop Warner football caused their sons’ to experience brain damage, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which caused their sons to engage in suicidal or reckless behavior.  They further alleged that such suicidal or reckless behavior led to their sons’ deaths.

The district court disagreed with Archie and Cornell and found in favor of Pop Warner.  The court determined that Archie and Cornell’s two experts had only shown through their testimony that Pop Warner football could have caused CTE and that CTE is linked to suicidal and reckless behaviors.  Therefore, the court found that the experts had only shown that Pop Warner football was a possible cause or could have caused their sons’ deaths, and not that Pop Warner football was a substantial cause of their sons’ deaths, as was legally required.  Ultimately, the court found that the expert opinions were unreliable and thus inadmissible.

Archie and Cornell appealed.  On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding and agreed entirely with the district court’s decision and reasoning.

Archie v. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc (9th Cir., Sept. 10, 2021, No. 20-55081) 2021 WL 4130082.


Private K-12 schools, universities, and colleges owe a general duty of care to their students to protect them from foreseeable harm, which includes extracurricular activities, such as athletics.

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