Broken-back Mountin': Edina man sues Cowboy Jack's for mechanical bull injury

To hear some tell it, the Cowboy Jack's mechanical bull (seen here in the foreground) is responsible for numerous injuries.

To hear some tell it, the Cowboy Jack's mechanical bull (seen here in the foreground) is responsible for numerous injuries. Tom Horgen, Star Tribune

Before hopping on the mechanical bull at Cowboy Jack's, Cole Birkholtz signed a waiver, ostensibly absolving the bar from liability for any injuries sustained during his ride.

This is not in dispute. Nor, it seems, is what happened next: Birkholtz stayed on for a short while before he the bull "bucked" him off, tossing him back-first onto a foam mat in the riding area.

The fall left Birkholtz, a resident of Edina, with a severe back injury, according to the Business Journal, which uncovered a lawsuit filed by Birkholtz. An ambulance collected the fallen rider and took him to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), where doctors diagnosed vertebrae fractures.

Birkholtz still has "pins in his back," and claims to suffer "severe pain to this day" because of his ill-fated bull ride, which occurred one night in December 2016. He and friends had come to Cowboy Jack's, a popular watering hole near Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, after leaving a "work party" earlier that evening. (Drinking was involved.)

Birkholtz's lawsuit alleges a Cowboy Jack's employee rushed him into signing the waiver "without giving him adequate time to read it." That same employee was operating the mechanical beast, and "sped [the bull] up quickly" while Birkholtz was on it, the Journal reports.

His lawsuit claims a Cowboy Jack's employee had admitted that people had sustained injuries riding the bull, and that an HCMC emergency room staffer made a similar observation about "riders" winding up in the hospital.

An attorney for the After Midnight Group, owners of Cowboy Jack's, says they "wholeheartedly" dispute Birkholtz's version of events, and "intend to strongly contest the lawsuit." 

The owners of Cowboy Jack's "never want to see anyone get injured or hurt," says David Davenport, an attorney with Winthrop & Weinstine, "and they make every effort to train staff to ensure that customers can safely enjoy these voluntary activities as they may choose to do."

As for Birkholtz's contention that other people have been injured riding that very same bull, here's a Youtube video from July 2012, not long after the bar opened, with the heading "Mechanical bull fail," and the description: "Broke three bones in my arm at Cowboy Jack's, Minneapolis MN." 

The video is not graphic (due to its grainy quality) though you can see the rider falls off very awkwardly, with his hand still stuck in the saddle. The bull continues to move a little, and someone yells out "Stop!" Someday soon, the bull ride operators may be hearing that same thing -- but from lawyers.