A passenger who was traveling to San Diego from Atlanta in a Delta flight had to be taken off the plane even before it took off after a fellow passenger’s emotional support dog viciously attacked him. According to a news report in Conde Nast Traveler, the man who was identified as Marlin Jackson was severely injured. A fellow passenger said the man’s face was “completely bloody.” The passenger said the dog appeared to be some type of Labrador mix and weighed roughly 50 pounds. Delta re-accommodated the dog and its owner on another flight, but this time, the dog flew separately in a kennel.
Jackson was reportedly in a window seat and the dog was on its owner’s lap in the adjacent middle seat. The dog growled at Jackson and then lunged at his face. Jackson was not able to escape due to his position against the window. After the dog was pulled away, it broke free and attacked a second time. Jackson suffered several lacerations to his face including a puncture wound through the lip and the gum. He needed 128 stitches and is awaiting consultation with a plastic surgeon according to his lawyer. Jackson has not yet filed a lawsuit but has retained a lawyer.
Emotional Support Versus Passenger Safety
Jackson’s lawyer Ross Massey issued a statement saying that while the importance of emotional support and service animals especially to veterans cannot be minimized, it is important for Delta to ensure the safety of all its passengers. The dog did not have a muzzle even though it was allowed to sit on its owner’s lap, the statement pointed out. The airline says it is reviewing its policies but has not made any changes.
The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 allows passengers who suffer from anxiety and depression to fly with a pet that has been certified as an emotional support animal (ESA) at no additional charge, and many pet owners concerned about transporting their animals in the cargo hold have discovered that the required documentation isn’t exactly hard to get.
In this particular case, the airline could be held liable for the passenger’s injuries because it did not ensure the safety of the passenger. Airlines have a duty of care to ensure that their passengers are safely transported to their destinations. Injured dog bite victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to advise victims about their legal rights and options.