On November 27, 2016, Naples resident John O'Brien, his adult children, and his two young grandchildren slid into their seats at Hard Rock Stadium for a Miami Dolphins game. A huge San Francisco fan, O'Brien, decked out in a red 49ers shirt, was ready to watch his team take on Miami.
But before the game even started, he says, a group of drunk Dolphins fans began harassing and cursing at his family. During the first quarter, O'Brien walked to the bottom of the section and spoke to a security guard, but the officer refused to intervene.
O'Brien says the drunken fans continued to threaten and insult his family as the game continued. At halftime and again at the beginning of the fourth quarter, O'Brien spoke to security but says his complaints were ignored. Finally, with two minutes left in the game, he says, the fans physically attacked him and his family.
Last week, O'Brien filed a lawsuit against the owners of the stadium and the Dolphins for negligent security.
"When the National Football League and Miami Dolphins have a code of conduct that they expect their fans to follow... I think that the fan and his family would have the expectation that steps will be taken to enforce the code of conduct," O'Brien's attorney, Tom Jerla, says. "In this case, they ignored three requests."
The Dolphins did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
After O'Brien was rebuffed by security, he says, two men later identified in a Miami-Dade Police report as Noel Garcia Sr. and Noel Garcia Jr. struck his adult daughter on the back of the head. According to the report, O'Brien's daughter's boyfriend confronted them and was then punched and hit in the face by a beer bottle. When O'Brien tried to intervene, he says, the Garcias punched him so hard he was knocked to the ground.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The case was investigated as a battery and later sent to Miami Garden Police for followup, although it's unclear from reports if the Garcias were charged. New Times was unable to find a contact for the Garcias.
O'Brien's lawsuit says the Garcias were clearly intoxicated and shouted racial slurs against Jews and Muslims in addition to the insults against his family. The complaint accuses the stadium of failing to have procedures to avoid over-serving alcohol to guests or to discipline rowdy fans for breaking the code of conduct, which prohibits foul and abusive language.
Jerla says O'Brien's two young grandchildren, a toddler and a 5-year-old, are still traumatized by what they witnessed.
"The oldest one, still to this day, when he is watching football on TV with Mr. O'Brien or his parents, clearly that day is in his mind," Jerla says. "He associates that with his grandfather being attacked."