Fan sues NFL team over service animal dispute

Levi's Stadium Facing Discrimination Suit
San Francisco 49ers Facing Discrimination Suit

At first, it did not look like there would be a problem. James Hilburn entered Levi’s Stadium, accompanied by his service dog, who is trained to provide him support and detect imminent seizures. He showed his dog’s documentation to the ticket taker, and no questions were asked.

But upon entering, police officers and security guards allegedly surrounded Hilburn. They told him that stadium rules barred the dog from entering.

Hilburn, who has myoclonic dystonia, began to get stressed. The dog began barking and Hilburn’s friend, aware that Hilburn was about to experience a seizure, asked the guards and police to back away. They refused and Hilburn had a seizure and was hospitalized.

This sequence of events, which took place prior to the San Francisco 49ers’ November 29 match-up with the Arizona Cardinals, is the subject of a new lawsuit, filed January 7 in federal court.

“Defendant discriminated against Hilburn in violation of the (Americans with Disabilities Act) by refusing to allow his service dog to stay in Levi’s Stadium and forcing Hilburn to leave because of his service dog,” the complaint asserts, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “As a direct and proximate cause of the Defendant’s discrimination, Plaintiff suffered a seizure, as well as emotional and nervous pain and suffering.”

The complaint also includes allegations under California’s civil rights statutes and a civil claim for false imprisonment. It also seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

A video from CBS about the lawsuit can be seen here.