Miss Kentucky contestant files suit against WKU employees


A Miss Kentucky USA contestant who found herself “head over heels” in Van Meter Hall has filed a complaint with two university employees after tripping off the Van Meter stage.

Whitney Beckner, of Bowling Green, was a participant in the pageant held at WKU in January 2012. 

Beckner was injured during one of the pageant rehearsals when her heel got stuck “in a concealed, open space between the stage and a set of stairs, causing her to fall to the ground and injure herself,” according to court documents.

Jeff Smith, technical director for Van Meter Hall, and Joseph Jones, a student worker, are specifically mentioned in the complaint.

Deborah Wilkins, WKU’s general counsel, said since Smith and Jones are both WKU employees, the university will provide legal aid.

“As employees of the university, they were operating within the scope of their job duties,” Wilkins said.

Brian Cook, one of the counsels for Beckner, said that Kentucky’s short statute of limitations — the relatively short time someone has to file a complaint — made it difficult to pinpoint who should be mentioned in the case.

“Our first priority is to try and figure out who the right people who should be involved,” Cook said. “And that’s difficult to do in that time.”

Cook said he and his co-counsel, Gray Caudill, of Bowling Green, will continue to ask questions after the suit’s filing.

“I’d like to see her compensated for the things that have been taken away from her,” Cook said. “She is a young woman who had a good job at a law office, studying for her career. That’s been derailed for the last eight or nine months, and we’d like to fix that.”

Cook said in addition to postponing her LSAT studies, Beckner has also dealt with post-concussive syndrome and is still being treated by physicians.

According to the complaint, Beckner is seeking “judgment against the defendants in such an amount to fully and justly compensate the plaintiff for her harms and losses,” according to the document.

Wilkins said she expects Beckner and her lawyers will ultimately negotiate a settlement with the insurance company provided through the pageant. 

In addition to Smith and Jones individually being mentioned, Connie Harrison, a coordinator with the Miss Kentucky USA pageant, the Miss Kentucky State Pageant organization, and the Miss Universe organization were also served complaints, according to the complaint document.

Cook said cases similar to Beckner’s average one to two years in court, sometimes longer. Wilkins predicts the case won’t last very long.