Emotional Support Dog Bites Delta Passenger Several Times in the Face

Victor Westerkamp
By Victor Westerkamp
May 31, 2019USshare
Emotional Support Dog Bites Delta Passenger Several Times in the Face
A Delta Air Lines jet sits at a gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in Atlanta. (David Goldman/AP)

Marlin Jackson, 44, of Daphne, Alabama, is suing Delta Airlines for gross negligence. An emotional-support-dog reportedly bit him several times on the face shortly before take-off on a Delta flight in June 2017, according to a lawsuit filed last Friday.

The attack was so serious that Marlin Jackson suffered “extensive facial damage,” including a series of punctures and cuts to his face. He bled so profusely “that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane,” according to the suit filed by attorney J. Ross Massey, of Birmingham law firm Alexander Shunnarah & Associates.

Jackson embarked on his flight from Atlanta to San Diego and wanted to take the window seat when he noticed another passenger had already taken the middle seat. The man sat there with a 50 lbs chocolate lab pointer mix on his lap.

“It is troubling that an airline would allow a dog of such substantial size to ride in a passenger’s lap without a muzzle,” said Massey in a written statement, obtained by Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Especially considering the dog and its owner were assigned a middle seat despite Delta Air Lines’ policies that call for the re-accommodation of larger animals.”

“According to witnesses, the approximately 50-pound dog growled at Mr. Jackson soon after he took his seat,” it said in the firm’s statement.

Jackson asked the owner, serviceman Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr, whether the dog was properly trained and would not bite him. Mundy assured him the dog was well-trained and safe, witnesses said.

“We expect airlines to follow procedures as required and verify any dogs traveling unrestrained in open cabin are trained for handling the large crowds and enclosed environments encountered on board an airplane,” the statement continued. “The dog continued to act in a strange manner as Mr. Jackson attempted to buckle his seatbelt. The growling increased and the dog lunged for Mr. Jackson’s face. The dog began biting Mr. Jackson, who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window.

“The dog was pulled away but broke free from Mr. Mundy’s grasp and attacked Mr. Jackson a second time … The attacks reportedly lasted 30 seconds and resulted in profuse bleeding from severe lacerations to Mr. Jackson’s face, including a puncture through the lip and gum.”

Jackson was taken off the plane and brought to a medical center where he received 28 stitches. Later that day, he took another flight to San Diego. Mr. Mudy and his dog were also taken from the plane and rescheduled for another flight that day; this time with the dog traveling in a kennel.

The firm further stated it seeks information on Delta’s “compliance with policies for unrestrained larger animals within a plane’s cabin and the verification process of their emotional support animal training requirements.”

A Delta spokesperson said in a statement the company cannot comment on the pending lawsuit, but it “continuously reviews and enhances its policies and procedures for animals onboard as part of its commitment to health, safety and protecting the rights of customers with disabilities,” according to HuffPost.

Since the incident in 2017, Delta Airlines updated their guidelines on the transportation of emotional-support and service animals, stipulating greater scrutiny for pets before they are allowed on-board.

The litigation seeks compensation for emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, permanent nerve damage, lost wages or earning potential, and substantial medical expenses, according to Daily Mail. Jackson reportedly considers undergoing plastic surgery to make up for the facial damage.

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