We've written a little bit about Eugene Caldwell, the 78-year-old 49ers fan killed by a runaway police horse last year at Candlestick Park. According to court records, Caldwell's widow and grown children filed suit against a bevy of defendants on April 17; yesterday the Examiner ran a story in which they revealed they're angling for a payout in the millions.
The notion of a spooked horse running wild through the streets of San Francisco would have seemed antiquated even the better part of a century ago. And yet, the city's last police horse-related legal claim took place more recently than the 49ers' last Super Bowl championship. Thankfully, it was far less memorable than the Caldwell incident -- even for the claimant.
According to the City Attorney's case management system, which goes back to the early 1990s, the most recent horse-related legal claim occurred on Nov. 25, 1995. A police horse reared on Stockton and Geary Streets, and kicked the mirror off of a car.
A claim was filed by a man named Steven Kubitschek, and the city paid him $193.75. Reached at his home in Orinda, Kubitschek hazily recalled the day a police horse made like Ray Wersching and booted the mirror off his Chrysler van, but couldn't remember any other details. "That was so long ago man!" said the architect with a laugh.
While it was the city that paid out Kibitschek's dough, that won't happen this time, said City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey. Since the police officer riding the horse that killed Caldwell was hired out on the SFPD's "10-b" program, he was essentially moonlighting as a private employee of the 49ers (10-b officers are often seen on city construction sites or working extra security at parades, nightclubs, or sporting events). Per city code, any police officers sued while doing work via the 10-b program are not the city's problem:
"The person, corporation, firm or organization shall indemnify, hold harmless and defend said City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department, and all the officers, agents and employees of either, from and against all liability, judgments or claims for personal or bodily injuries, false arrest and false imprisonment caused by or purportedly caused by such personnel in the rendering of such services."
Dorsey, incidentally, skimmed a book he keeps handy of City Attorney rulings from the year 1900, when equine beasties roaming city streets would have been par for the course. He couldn't find any horse-related lawsuits from that era either, however.
While the San Francisco of 1900 had more horses than the present, it seems it also had fewer lawyers.