Lawsuit After Man On Plane Bitten By Flying Flesh-Eating Spider

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Some call it the violin spider, others the brown recluse – but whatever you call it, you don’t want to encounter it on a flight, or anywhere else for that matter.

A Mississippi man is suing American Airlines, saying he almost lost his thumb after a brown recluse spider (aka violin spider) bit him aboard a flight in 2016.

It’s the second known bite on an aircraft attributed to this type of spider, the previous one being on a flight to South Africa, when a British lawyer told UK media how his leg “burst open” after he was bitten by a brown recluse. The venom of this type of spider – native to North America -- can sometimes, though not often, result in hideous open wounds.

In the latest case, Marcus Fleming says he was seated on an Air Wisconsin flight and waiting to take off from the airport in Jackson, Mississippi in SEPT 2016.

According to a lawsuit filed last week and cited by the Dallas Morning News, by the time Fleming landed, his hand was in extreme pain and his thumb had changed colour.

He underwent emergency surgery to avoid having his thumb amputated, the lawsuit says.

In his lawsuit, Fleming alleges American was negligent in failing to inspect the aircraft for dangerous conditions (though spiders can be hard to find). He is seeking US$500,000 in damages to cover medical expenses, pain, suffering and emotional distress. The suit also names the takeoff airport as a defendant.

Fleming said he told a flight attendant he had been bitten, but she thought it was probably just a mosquito.

Wikipedia says the brown recluse or violin spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is a species of spider native to the southern parts of North America.

 “The bite frequently is not felt initially and may not be immediately painful, but it can be serious. The brown recluse bears a potentially deadly hemotoxic venom,” Wikipedia states. 

“Most bites are minor with no necrosis [death of tissue]. However, a small number of brown recluse bites do produce severe dermonecrotic lesions (i.e. necrosis); an even smaller number produce severe cutaneous (skin) or viscerocutaneous (systemic) symptoms.”

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