A former Austin-American Statesman photographer filed a lawsuit Oct. 16 against Bevo XV’s owners and handlers for gross negligence after sustaining permanent injuries photographing the 2019 Sugar Bowl football game, according to the lawsuit.
The Texas vs. University of Georgia game took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, and both teams brought their mascots that day.
According to the lawsuit, the photographer, Nick Wagner, was on one knee taking photos of the University of Georgia's bulldog mascot when the Silver Spurs Alumni Association, who are in charge of handling the steer, untied Bevo’s lead ropes and prodded Bevo to turn toward the bulldog.
Bevo then charged through the railing toward the bulldog and collided with Wagner, causing permanent injuries to his neck and back, according to the lawsuit.
Wagner sued the Silver Spurs Alumni Association and Bevo’s owners, John and Betty Baker, for gross negligence and failing to take proper safety precautions. Wagner is seeking a trial by jury and monetary relief between $200,000 and $1,000,000.
According to the lawsuit against the owners, the owners intentionally exposed Bevo XV to the UGA mascot, knowing Bevo would get scared and react.
“Defendants committed an act of omission with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participants,” according to the lawsuit. “Negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the serious injuries sustained by Mr. Wagner, including but not limited to, neck and back injuries which permanently impair Plaintiff’s abilities.”
The Silver Spurs declined to comment on this story “in light of this matter being subject to litigation.”
Wagner said he waited so long to file the lawsuit because he wanted to ensure he would be medically stable enough to take action. Wagner said the injuries caused excessive angulation in his spine, which has led to loss of stability in motion in his spine, or weakness and pain in his spine, and a 20% impairment disability in terms of employment rating for those with disabilities.
Wagner said his specialist said he will likely have an early onset of arthritis in his back due to the injury.
“This lawsuit is kind of intended to force (The Silver Spurs) to have to take responsibility for their negligence,” Wagner said.
Wagner said the monetary relief he is seeking in the lawsuit would help cover years of medical expenses to come, since his medical bills came out to over $24,000 in the first year and a half alone.
“You have to consider the medical expenses that will result from this going on for the rest of my life,” Wagner said.
Derek Potts, a lawyer specializing in issues related to civil litigation and plaintiffs’ personal injury, said in a public statement that the case against Bevo’s owners and handlers may be difficult to win.
Under the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act, owners of farm animals are not liable for any harm they may cause to people around them unless there was some level of negligence related to equipment or handling of the animal.
“Texas law has broad protections for owners of farm animals, which would include longhorn steers,” Potts said. “The plaintiff in this case chose to go to the area where the animal was and arguably assumed the risk for any injury resulting from the behavior of Bevo.”