A man who was allegedly mauled by an emotional support dog while on a Delta flight is now suing the airline and the animal’s owner for negligence, court documents filed obtained by PEOPLE confirm.
After taking his assigned window seat on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego in June 2017, Alabama resident Marlin Jackson says the emotional support dog seated on the lap of the passenger next to him began to growl. The animal “was so large that it encroached into the aisle seat and window seat,” the documents, filed in Fulton County, Georgia, state.
Though the passenger, Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr., allegedly assured Jackson the dog — a chocolate Labrador, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — was safe, as Jackson attempted to put on his seat belt, the animal lunged at his face and bit him multiple times as he was pinned against the window.
While Mundy was able to momentarily pull the dog away from the attack, it broke free and bit Jackson’s face again before the two were finally separated.
Despite multiple attempts, PEOPLE was unable to get in contact with the owner.
The mauling left Jackson with deep gashes to his face, and large amounts of blood from his injuries caused “the entire row of seats to be removed from the airplane,” according to the filing.
Jackson had to receive 28 stitches to close the wound to his face and body he experiencing during the attack, and now suffers from “severe physical pain,” scaring and loss of sensation to the damaged areas of his face.
“Mr. Jackson continues to endure, and will likely experience future emotional distress and mental anguish relate to this attack,” according to the lawsuit. “[He] sustained lost life enjoyment and his entire lifestyle has been severely impaired by this attack.”
Mundy, the dog’s owner, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from North Carolina, according to AJC.
The lawsuit alleges that Delta was negligent in not verifying the dog was properly restrained, placed in a kennel or had been trained with the requirements of a service animal.
In a response sent to PEOPLE, Delta declined to comment on any pending litigation but did send a statement regarding their support of animal policies.
“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,” the company wrote. “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 added: “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.”
Jackson’s attorneys, J. Ross Massey and Graham Roberts of Alexander Shunnarah & Associates, say that despite the airline making changes to their policy, the company should still be held responsible for policies they say were not followed at the time of the attack.
“Although we are aware that this incident has forced Delta to review and amend its policies, we are still seeking answers as to why the policies Delta had at the time regarding the animal’s size, accommodation, and placement were not enforced,” the firm said in a statement sent to PEOPLE.
“Preventing danger is not solely achieved by establishing a new rule after harm has occurred, but also by simply following the rules which existed prior to the harm,” they continued. “The attack on Mr. Jackson would not have happened had Delta enforced their own pre-existing policies concerning animals in the cabin.”