A $10 million lawsuit filed by a fan against the San Francisco 49ers alleges the team violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming security kicked him and his service dog out of Levi’s Stadium, causing the fan to have a seizure.
James Hilburn says in the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court Jan. 7 that he had no problems getting into the stadium for the 49ers-Arizona Cardinal’s game on Nov. 29, but that once he was inside, police and security personnel surrounded him, telling him that his Alaskan malamute, Bear, wasn’t allowed to be there.
The stadium security’s directive to Hilburn appears to be in violation of Levi’s Stadium animals policy, which permits service animals.
Hilburn, a San Francisco resident, says in the lawsuit that he suffers from myoclonic dystonia, which causes seizures. He claims in the suit that the stressful situation at the stadium caused him to seizure.
Bear is trained to alert Hilburn before he has a seizing episode. Cellphone video by Hilburn’s friend shows Bear yelping out a warning.
"Can I please have my ID back …Why am I being detained" Hilburn can be heard asking during his exchange with stadium security and police.
"You are not," one of the officers responds.
"Can you please give me my ID back," Hilburn asks again.
"I’ve got a shuttle coming to give you a ride," a security officer says in the video.
"You can record all you want, ‘cos we are recording too," a police officer says.
"….You just heard my dog alert, so this is clearly going to get worse," Hilburn says.
"Can we please ask you to leave this seizing man alone, and just back away for a minute, ‘cos the more stress he has, the higher chance he will have of a full-on seizure, and he will s___ in his pants, and p___ in them, okay, so please leave him alone and back up, is that all right?" Hilburn’s friend can be heard telling the officers.
"Wait a second, I’ve got a shuttle coming for you," one of the officers say. Hilburn declined the shuttle.
Hilburn says in the lawsuit that Hilburn and Bear were allowed to enter the stadium after Hilburn showed the ticket taker documentation certifying Bear as a service dog.
But police and stadium security demanded that he leave, the lawsuit said. "The event was extremely stressful," and Hilburn wanted to leave, but security and police wouldn’t return his identification, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, Hilburn suffered a seizure, as well as emotional and nervous pain and suffering, when the security guards and police refused to back away at his friend’s request. He had to be taken to the hospital. Hilburn's attorney, Mark Thomas, said Hilburn had been seizure-free for six months prior to the game and has since been suffering with some frequency.
The lawsuit claims that stadium security discriminated against Hilburn, acting with "oppression, fraud and malice."