Family of injured volunteer sues rodeo
Relatives of a longtime Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo volunteer
who remains in a coma after she reportedly was thrown from a golf cart
in February have sued the organization.
The complaint filed on behalf of Yvonne "Bonnie" Herndon in Harris
County District Court also names other defendants, including the
volunteer driver as well as the companies responsible for the golf
cart's design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution.
Herndon and her husband were receiving a ride to their vehicle in a
golf cart operated by volunteer Madeline Kopetsky after attending the
Toby Keith concert on Feb. 25 when the driver made a left turn with such
"force and speed" that "Herndon's body was involuntarily ejected from
the right side of the moving vehicle and onto the pavement," the lawsuit
Herndon suffered a "closed head injury" that has left her unconscious ever since, the complaint said.
Rodeo Chief Operating Officer Leroy Shafer declined to comment on
pending litigation, but confirmed that Herndon is a member of the
Livestock Show's board of directors and chaired the Western Art
"Bonnie is one of us and our heart goes out to her and her family," he said.
On Tuesday, Shafer declined to release two internal rodeo reports on
the incident because they will be involved in the legal case and include
personal medical information.
Other serious rodeo injuries have been known to the public much
sooner than six months after the fact. Shafer said this "was a personal
injury incident and did not require police action," explaining why no
report was filed by law enforcement.
"Usually when there's an accident involving a motor vehicle, we can
obtain a crash report," said Houston lawyer Brant Stogner, who
represents Herndon's relatives. "The most information has come from the
The lawsuit alleges that the rodeo and Kopetsky were negligent, that
Club Car's golf carts have design defects, that Mr. Golf Carts added a
row of seats without including "handhold restraints … that passengers
could use to avoid being ejected from the vehicle while it was moving"
and that Conroe Golf Cars leased, then sold, the cart to the rodeo
knowing the vehicle lacked seat belts, headlights, taillights, mirrors
and other safety features.
Herndon, a Columbus resident and self-employed businesswoman, was injured two days before she turned 65.
"Now, she's totally reliant on a feeding tube. She's been off the
ventilator - and that's good - but assuming no further recovery, she
will require the same type of treatment for the rest of her life,"
Stogner said, adding that she opens her eyes "periodically, but it's a
Her mounting medical bills now total roughly $500,000.