The San Francisco 49ers have found themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit, after a Placerville man filed suit in San Jose federal court last Thursday alleging that the team denied both him and his service dog access to a November football game at Levi's Stadium and illegally detained him in the process. As a direct result of this action, the man alleges, he suffered a seizure on site and required hospitalization.
James Hilburn attended the November 29 game against the Arizona Cardinals last year with his service dog and at least one friend, reports the Chronicle. Hilburn suffers from myoclonic dystonia, which causes seizures, and his service dog is specially trained to both alert Hilburn and others when a seizure is imminent and to provide support should a seizure occur.
His dog, reports KRON 4, is an Alaskan malamute named Bear.
The lawsuit alleges that a ticket taker let Hilburn inside the stadium (after checking his service animal documentation), but that shortly after entry Hilburn was "surrounded" by guards and police who told him that the dog was not allowed.
Mark Thomas, Hilburn’s lawyer, detailed what happened next in the filed complaint.
“The event was extremely stressful,” noted Thomas. “Hilburn wanted to leave the stressful environment, but Defendant’s (49ers’) security guards and police officers would not return his identification.”
As the confrontation with stadium staff continued, his service animal began barking to alert those in the area that a seizure was forthcoming. The suit continues that Hilburn's friend recognized this as a sign from the dog, and asked the stadium guards to back up and give his friend space. They apparently did not, and Hilburn began to seize — resulting in a hospital trip.
The 49ers, alleges the suit, violated the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act when they denied Hilburn and Bear access to the game.
Thomas writes in the complaint that prior to this incident Hilburn had gone over six months without a seizure, reports KRON 4. Since the November 29 incident, he has reportedly suffered several seizures.
Levi’s Stadium policy states that animals are not allowed in the stadium "with the exception of service animals and service animals in training," and notes that the team did not respond to a request for comment.