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Mississippi Man Sues American Airlines Over Brown Recluse Spider Bite

— July 26, 2018

A Mississippi man who was bitten by a brown recluse spider is suing American Airlines, saying flight attendants downplayed the risk posed by the arachnid.

Marcus Fleming was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 3978 on September 6, 2016. Just before take-off, another, eight-legged passenger scurried from the man’s seat.

Fleming didn’t see the creature make its escape, but he did feel a pain emanating from his hand.

Afraid he’d been bitten by something dangerous, Fleming tried to notify the cabin crew. Employees abroad the aircraft made light of his complaint, saying he’d probably been nipped by a mosquito.

“After he was bitten, he alerted the flight attendant that something had bitten him but she responded that it was probably a mosquito,” claims the lawsuit. “After landing Mr. Fleming noticed that the pain in his hand became extremely painful and this thumb changed colors.”

A doctor later told Fleming he’d need surgery. If he didn’t undergo an operation, he was liable to lose a thumb.

The New York Post says Fleming’s since made the decision to sue. The suit accuses American of failing to maintain a safe environment for passengers, evidenced by the presence of a stowaway spider. Fleming hopes to accrue at least $500,000 in damages, which names Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport as a defendant along with the airline.

Fleming’s flight was operated by Air Wisconsin, which was acting as a contractor for American in 2016. Attribution: Ken Fielding/ (CCA-BY-3.0)

“American Airlines is a commercial airline and owed a duty to the public, including Fleming, to exercise due care on its flights to ensure the area in which their passengers sat were [sic] safe,” says the suit.

A spokesman for American Airlines said the company is reviewing the complaint and taking steps to investigate Fleming’s version of events.

Brown recluse spiders are a venomous species of arachnid. While their bites aren’t always dangerous, an infected wound can lead to loss of limb or life if not given proper medical attention.

A Mississippi State University Extension report on black widow and brown recluse spiders, cited by the Clarion Ledger, says the latter can inject a ‘necrotic’ poison into its victims. Treatment normally consists of ‘antibiotics and corticosteroids’ for infection and surgical removal of any potentially damaged tissue.

Anyone bitten by a brown recluse spider should seek immediate medical attention, says the report.

The Dallas News notes that the flight was operated by Air Wisconsin, ‘a regional carrier contracted to fly for American under the American Eagle brand until earlier this year.’ Even though American Airlines staff weren’t aboard Flight 3978, Fleming had purchased his fare through American.


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