TAMPA — Two years after a 16-year-old Riverview girl died following a rodeo accident, her family is suing the rodeo for negligence.
Brooke Coats died Feb. 18, 2011, after riding a bull at the Crosstown Arena in Brandon. The bull bucked Coats, then kicked her in the chest. The Riverview High School junior walked out of the ring, but soon collapsed and had trouble breathing. She was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she died that night in surgery.
Doctors determined the kick had lacerated her liver and she bled to death internally, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed Monday — two years to the day of Coats' death — in Hillsborough County civil court. The statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Florida is two years.
The suit names 18 defendants, including Corey Costa and his company, Remington Rough Stock Inc., which runs rodeo events at the arena.
Coats' parents — Keith and Susan — accuse Costa and the company of allowing Brooke Coats to ride an "aggressive bull above her skill level," of failing to provide emergency personnel on site, and of waiting at least 15 to 20 minutes to call an ambulance after Coats was kicked.
Costa declined to comment Thursday. No attorneys have filed a response to the complaint on behalf of the defendants as of Thursday, according to the clerk of courts website.
In 2011, Costa called Coats' death a "freak accident." He noted at the time that she had ridden the same bull — a 900-pound, 2-year-old calf —about 30 times.
Her parents signed a liability waiver acknowledging the risks of bull-riding, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigators said at the time.
Coats had been bull riding as a hobby for about a year. The 16-year-old wore a heavy protective vest and a helmet that night, like she always did when riding.
Patton Youngblood, who is representing Keith and Susan Coats, said his clients are looking for some answers to questions about their daughter's death, such as, why wasn't an ambulance there that night?
"You see ambulances at sporting events, race car events. I don't think that bull riding is any safer than any of those," Youngblood said.
It is not clear if immediate medical attention would have saved Coats, Youngblood said.
"We're still investigating that," he said. "If nothing else, maybe this (lawsuit) will shed light on the need to provide medical care at these events in the future."
There are so many defendants, Youngblood said, because it is unclear who actually owns the land the Crosstown Arena sits on, just north of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway on U.S. 301. The lawyer said he believes Costa, who runs the rodeo events, leases the site.
Remington Rough Stock's voicemail message said rodeo events are postponed until June 22. The company's Facebook account has been dormant since 2011.
The last event on the page: a March 26, 2011, benefit bull ride for Brooke Coats.
Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]