A man beaten unconscious and the friend shot four times trying to rescue him during an infamous 49ers-Raiders game have quietly sued the 49ers, the NFL and the Candlestick Park parking lot security company.
In the previously unpublicized litigation filed in November, the two Bay Area men claim the defendants acted negligently and breached their contract to provide a safe event Aug. 20, 2011, at Candlestick Park. They cited the Bryan Stow beating at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles as fair warning and took statements from 49ers great Joe Montana, who once said the team advised players to keep their families home during Raiders games because it wasn't safe.
Serious bouts of NFL fan violence have made national headlines in recent years, the latest involving a Raiders fan shot in the face by an Arizona Cardinals fan outside a preseason game between the two teams near Phoenix on Aug. 17. The incidents prompted teams to re-evaluate security last year and for the upcoming season.
According to the twin lawsuits filed by 49ers fans Daniel Long and Gabriel Navarrette in San Francisco Superior Court, the 49ers failed to "proactively create an environment that was free from fighting, taunting or threatening remarks and/or gestures and gang activity."
The Aug. 20, 2011, preseason game between the cross-bay rivals was the scene of two shootings and two serious beatings, along with numerous alcohol-fueled fights. In the aftermath, 49ers owner Jed York asked the NFL to suspend future games between the two teams indefinitely; the 49ers also ramped up security measures, including instituting a ban on postgame drinking and tailgating in parking lots. Still, visiting New Orleans Saints fans complained about harassment during a subsequent playoff game, and San Francisco police officers began attending games undercover in opponent's jerseys to find rabble-rousers.
The 49ers declined to comment on the allegations but issued a brief statement.
"The San Francisco 49ers are committed to providing a safe game day environment for all fans. That commitment has led to the highest security level rating given by the NFL. We cannot comment on the specifics of this case as litigation is ongoing," the team said.
The NFL's attorney declined to comment, and an attorney representative for Landmark Security said the company's lawyer would not be able to respond.
Witnesses and YouTube videos painted a chaotic scene in the parking lot and inside Candlestick Park at the Aug. 20, 2011, game, with multiple brawls between 49ers and Raiders fans.
During the fourth quarter, one Bay Area man was assaulted and knocked unconscious in an upper-level men's restroom, police said. About 15 minutes after the 49ers beat the Raiders 17-3, another man, in his 20s, was shot in the face in Lot V near RV parking on the north side of the stadium by a man wearing a Raiders jersey, police said.
About 20 minutes later, Navarrette was beaten unconscious by a group of men who had been drinking in the internal parking lot, the lawsuit claims. As the men beat him up, Long attempted to rescue his friend and was shot four times.
Both 26-year-old men have been physically and economically affected by the incident, the lawsuits contend. The two seek unspecified damages.
San Francisco police said this week that investigations into all the major incidents in and around Candlestick that day remain open but inactive. No suspects have been charged.
In their case, Long and Navarrette claim 49ers senior management from 1979 through 1989 would warn players to keep their families home during Raiders games because of the likelihood of violence and that the team knew the atmosphere had not changed.
"Safety concerns expressed more than 25 years earlier had not abated and, in fact, had escalated with the October 2010 stabbing in the parking lot before the Raiders game," the two men claimed.
In an ESPN interview shortly after last year's 49ers-Raiders game, Montana said legendary coach Bill Walsh addressed players before Raiders games.
"Tell your families to sit this one out and watch it on TV," Montana recalled Walsh saying in the interview. "It just wasn't that safe to be around."
Geoffrey Becker, a Lafayette attorney representing Long and Navarrette, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but confirmed that Montana and long snapper Brian Jennings had been deposed.
Jennings, the team's longest tenured player, had told the San Francisco Chronicle in the days after the game that it's "against Jennings family policy" to attend Raiders games.
Recent history backs up those concerns, the men allege. The lawsuit cites a stabbing at Mile High Stadium during a 2009 Raiders-Broncos game as another example that the 49ers and their security should have been better prepared to handle Raider Nation, and the men assert no additional parking lot security was employed.
The highly publicized March 31, 2011, beating of San Francisco Giants fan Stow outside the Los Angeles Dodgers' stadium should have alerted security to increased threats during high-profile sporting events and intense rivalries, the lawsuit claims. Stow is still recovering from his severe injuries and has sued the Dodgers.
More immediately, the defendants knew that a 49ers patron had already been shot in the internal parking lot where Navarrette had parked his car, that the assailant in that shooting was still on the loose, and that the weapon had not been found, the men claimed.
Liability cases like these, based on a presumed contract between the ticket holder and the event sponsors or managers of the premises, are difficult to prove, said Ivan Golde, an Oakland attorney who has represented former and current NFL players.
"You're blaming the 49ers for something a third party did," he said.
"Would the proper security have avoided the accident? That's hard to prove and nebulous," Golde said. "It's kind of hard to hold the team or league responsible for the intentional criminal behavior of unruly fans."
A jury could award a percentage of liability of fault, but Golde said he anticipates a settlement before the trial's scheduled start Aug. 19, 2013 -- the day before the game's second anniversary.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.