Man attacked by emotional support dog on Delta flight sues the airline and passenger – NBC News

Man attacked by emotional support dog on Delta flight sues the airline and passenger - NBC News
Man sues after his face is mauled by emotional support dog on Delta Airlines flight
An Alabama man is suing Delta Air Lines and one of its passengers over his getting mauled by an emotional support dog on a flight in 2017.

The attack was so severe that Marlin Jackson suffered “extensive facial damage,” including lacerations to his nose and mouth, and bled so profusely “that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane,” according to the suit, which was filed on Friday in Georgias State Court of Fulton County.

Video: Man files lawsuit after being attacked by dog on flight

Jackson was seated in a window seat on a Delta flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to San Diego International Airport in June 2017, the suit says.

Fellow passenger Ronald Mundy was already in his middle seat “with his large dog attempting to sit in his lap,” according to the suit, which says that Deltas policy required large emotional support dogs be secured on the floor.

Delta told The Washington Post that it does not comment on pending litigation, saying only that it “continuously reviews and enhances its policies and procedures for animals onboard” and pointing to its 2018 policy updates that included confirmation of training for support animals.

“Defendant Delta allowed the large animal to remain in Defendant Mundys lap while Delta employees passed through the area in open disregard of said policy,” the suit states.

Delta said last year that it carries about 700 service or support animals a day. Unlike service animals, emotional-support animals are not trained to perform tasks like guiding a person or pushing a wheelchair, so they are classified differently in the US.

Video: Atlanta man makes pocket-sized resource guides for homeless

Before taking his seat down, Jackson asked Mundy if the dog would bite and Mundy assured him the animal was safe. As Jackson buckled his seatbelt, the dog started to growl and shift in Mundys lap, according to the lawsuit. Jackson again asked if the dog was safe, and Mundy said it was.

Marlin Jackson, from Alabama, was sitting in the window seat on a flight from Atlanta to San Diego when the dog on the lap of the passenger next to him lunged at his face, a lawsuit filed last week in court in Georgias Fulton County says.

Without warning, the dog lunged at Jackson, biting him several times in the face and pinning him against the window, the suit states.

“The attack was briefly interrupted when the animal was pulled away from Mr. Jackson. However, the animal broke free and again mauled Mr. Jacksons face,” according to the lawsuit.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the dog that attacked Jackson was 50 pounds. Mundy is a military veteran, according to Journal Constitution.

Jackson, who lives in Alabama, “bled so profusely that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane,” according to the complaint. He suffered lacerations and punctures to his face and upper body requiring 28 stitches and medical treatment, it says. The lawsuit also alleges Jackson suffered permanent injury and loss of sensation in areas of his face, “severe physical pain and suffering”, emotional distress and mental anguish, loss of income or earning potential, and substantial medical bills. “His entire lifestyle has been severely impaired by this attack,” the litigation states.

Jackson required 28 stitches and lost sensation in parts of his face, the suit states. He also experiences “emotional distress and mental anguish” from the attack. Jackson is seeking damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

The suit alleges Delta was negligent by allowing a passenger on board with a large dog without any verification of training or proper restraints to protect others, and not warning others of the dangers of unsecured animals on its plane so they could protect themselves. It also alleges Delta failed to require a kennel for the dog or failed to verify that the dog as an emotional support animal was trained and met the same requirements as a service animal.

“Marlin Jackson continues to suffer from the vicious dog attack,” said his attorneys J. Ross Massey and Graham Roberts with Alexander Shunnarah and Associates in a joint statement to NBC News. “The attack on Mr. Jackson would not have happened had Delta enforced their own pre-existing policies concerning animals in the cabin.”

“The harm of large, untrained and unrestrained animals in the cabin of an airplane was reasonably foreseeable to Delta, or should have been,” the suit alleges. And Delta “knew or should have known that subjecting passengers and animals to close physical interaction in the confined, cramped and anxious quarters of the cabin, presented a reasonably foreseeable harm”.

A Delta spokesperson told NBC News the airline could not comment on pending litigation, but that in 2018 it changed its policy regarding emotional support animals by requiring a “confirmation of animal training” form as well as other official documentation.

Delta, the suit alleges, “took no action to verify or document the behavioral training of the large animal,” such as requiring signed documentation showing the animal is trained and can behave in the airplane setting. “Such measures were feasible at the time but were not in effect until after this attack,” according to the complaint.

“The airline also banned pit bulls and animals under four months of age as service or support animals. These policy updates reinforce Deltas core value of putting safety first, always,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The June 2017 attack during boarding of a flight from Atlanta to San Diego gained national attention and was followed by a series of changes to airline policies for emotional support and service animals. The federal government is also reviewing its policies for emotional support and service animals on flights.

In that policy change in December 2018, Delta said it was also banning emotional support animals on flights that are longer than eight hours. The company made the changes following an 84 percent increase in incidents involving service and support animals in 2016 and 2017.

Delta 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. In 2018, Delta tightened its policies on emotional support animals by requiring a confirmation of animal training form as well as other official documentation. The airline also banned pit bulls and animals under four months of age as service or support animals. These policy updates reinforce Deltas core value of putting safety first, always.

An attack on a plane by a fellow passengers emotional-support dog left Marlin Jackson needing 28 stitches, according to a negligence lawsuit filed Friday against Delta Air Lines and the dogs owner. In the suit, Jackson claims he bled so badly that a row of seats later had to be removed from the plane.

Delta failed to require a kennel for the large animal and/or failed to verify that the large animal, allegedly an ESA, was trained and met the same requirements as a service animal, the lawsuit states. Prior to subjecting the large animal to the foreseeably dangerous confines of a crowded airplane, Defendant Mundy failed to act reasonably, consistent with the standard of ordinary care, to prevent harm to his fellow passengers, including Mr. Jackson.

Jackson had just taken his window seat in the 31st row for a June 2017 flight from Atlanta to San Diego when the dog, sitting on the lap of the passenger next to him, lunged for his face, pinning him against the window of the plane so he couldnt escape, the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint filed in Fulton County state court in Georgia alleges that Delta “took no action to verify or document the behavioral training of the large animal.” It also alleges that the dog owner, Ronald K. Mundy Jr., a Marine, “knew or . . . should have known that his large animal was foreseeably dangerous.”

Now, Jackson and his attorneys, J. Ross Massey and Graham P. Roberts, are demanding that both Mundy and Delta take responsibility for the attack, arguing the dog hadnt been verified to meet training requirements to be allowed on board the flight.

Man sues Delta over attack by passengers emotional-support dog

The alleged attack is one of numerous reports in the past few years of emotional-support animals causing trouble for airline passengers, incidents that have pushed airlines to crack down on which animals they allow on planes.

The attacks caused extensive facial damage including deep lacerations and punctures to the nose and mouth, the lawsuit reads. In fact, Mr. Jackson bled so profusely that the entire row of seats had to be removed from the airplane.

In the months following the attack, Delta tightened rules around emotional-support and service animals. The airline required passengers beginning in March 2018 to provide “confirmation of animal training,” proof of the animals immunization records as well as a letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional regarding the request for the support animal.

Video: Real Talk: Deciding Who to Trust!

When Delta announced the change, it cited an 84 percent spike in reported animal incidents since 2016 “including urination/defecation, biting” and the incident involving Jackson.

Video: Real Talk: Deciding Who to Trust!

Jacksons attorney, Ross Massey of Alexander Shunnarah & Associates, called the policy changes a “step in the right direction.” “But of course changing the rule after the fact doesnt excuse that there are rules you didnt follow beforehand,” he added.

The complaint alleges that despite an existing policy to require larger animals to be secured on the floor, the dog remained on his owners lap.

Delta said it doesnt comment on pending litigation, but in a statement said 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.” The company pointed to its 2018 policy updates that “reinforce Deltas core value of putting safety first, always.”

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial, and an unspecified amount in damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. But Massey said he hopes the lawsuit will also push Delta to enforce its policies so passengers can be assured animals on flights are safe or safely secured.

Delta passenger attacked by veterans support dog sues over negligence

Before he took his seat, Jackson asked Mundy if the reportedly 50-pound dog – a “chocolate lab-pointer mix,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution – would bite, and the dog owner said Jackson would be safe.

“While Mr. Jackson was securing his seatbelt, the animal began to growl at Mr. Jackson and shift in Defendant Mundys lap,” the lawsuit reads. “Suddenly, the animal attacked Mr. Jacksons face, biting Mr. Jackson several times. . . . The attack was briefly interrupted when the animal was pulled away from Mr. Jackson. However, the animal broke free and again mauled Mr. Jacksons face.”

Massey said teeth punctured through Jacksons gum, above his lip and beneath his nose. He has suffered permanent scarring, the complaint says, and his attorney said he still experiences numbness in the area, and has intermittent speech issues.

Before Delta makes further policy updates, Massey also called for training airline employees to enforce existing rules.