Passenger Sues Delta After Being Attacked By An Emotional Support Dog

In June 2017, an Alabama man was aboard a Delta flight headed from Atlanta to San Diego when he was attacked by another passenger’s emotional support dog. That man is suing Delta airlines and the owner of the dog. The lawsuit was filed in Georgia State Court recently.

Passenger Sues Delta After Being Attacked By An Emotional Support Dog
Delta is the world’s second largest airline in terms of passengers carried. Photo: pxhere

What allegedly happened

Marlin Jackson was flying from Atlanta to San Diego on Delta flight 1430 during the summer of 2017. The lawsuit states that as Jackson boarded and approached his seat in Row 31, he noticed that fellow passenger – Ronald Mundy – was already seated “with his large dog attempting to sit in his lap”. The lawsuit states that Delta’s policy required large emotional-support dogs to be secured on the floor, which didn’t happen.

The suit states the following:

“Defendant Delta allowed the large animal to remain in Defendant Mundy’s lap while Delta employees passed through the area in open disregard of said policy,”

The victim, Jackson, asked Mundy if there was any risk of being bitten but Mundy reassured him that his dog was safe. As Jackson was buckling his seat belt, the dog began growling. This was followed by Jackson asking Mundy a second time if his dog was safe – to which the response was affirmative.

Passenger Sues Delta After Being Attacked By An Emotional Support Dog
Delta faces accusations negligent hiring, training and supervision. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The lawsuit goes on to say that, without any warning, the dog attacked Jackson and bit his face several times, pushing him up against the window:

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

Extensive facial damage

According to the original court filing, the attacks caused “extensive facial damage including deep lacerations and punctures to the nose and mouth”. The filing goes on to say that Mr. Jackson’s bleeding was so intense that the entire row of seats had to be taken off the aircraft.

In the aftermath of the attack, Jackson was given 28 stitches and ongoing medical treatment “throughout his attempted recovery”. The result has been the incursion of “substantial medical bills”.

Jackson claims that he suffered permanent injury, scarring and loss of sensation to the affected areas of his face. In addition to this, the court filing is seeking damages for loss of income and/or earning potential as well as mental anguish.

Delta at fault?

Among the many accusations of negligence against Delta, the lawsuit says that the airline “breached the standard of care by failing to protect its invitee…from reasonable harm”. Among the many claims, Jackson’s suit is accusing Delta of…

  • Allowing the animal onboard without verification of adequate animal training.
  • Allowing the passenger’s dog onboard without verifying there were any proper restraints on the animal to protect other passengers.
  • Failing to warn guests of the dangers of unsecured animals onboard its airplane so that they could protect themselves.
Passenger Sues Delta After Being Attacked By An Emotional Support Dog
Delta now requires confirmation of animal training for passenger’s emotional support animals. Photo: Pexels

Delta’s response

According to NBC News, a Delta spokesperson said the airline would not be able to comment on the specific case. However, in 2018 changes were made to its policy regarding emotional-support animals.

The new changes now require a “confirmation of animal training” form, as well as other official documentation. In a statement to media, the Delta spokesperson said:

“The airline also banned pit bulls and animals under four months of age as service or support animals. These policy updates reinforce Delta’s core value of putting safety first, always,”

Passenger Sues Delta After Being Attacked By An Emotional Support Dog
Delta has made changes to its policy since the 2017 incident. Photo:

Do you think Jackson has a valid claim against Delta Airlines? Have you had any experiences, good or bad, with emotional support animals on flights? Let us know what you think in the comments.