Court Revives Lawsuit Over Spider Bite At Ann Arbor Hotel

June 08, 2019 - 1:35 pm
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ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) - A man who says he was bitten by a poisonous spider will get another chance to pin responsibility on an Ann Arbor hotel.

James Heuschneider says he was forced to have multiple surgeries on his chest and left leg after he was attacked by a brown recluse spider while staying in a room at the Comfort Inn & Suites in August 2015. He sued, claiming the hotel's failure to maintain the accommodations in a reasonably safe condition caused his spider bite.

A Washtenaw County judge initially dismissed the lawsuit in favor of the hotel, saying the spider was a wild animal beyond the hotel's control. But the Michigan appeals court says it was the wrong call.

Click here to read the court ruling (.pdf format)

The court says the spider counts as vermin and, as a result, the hotel isn't off the hook under state law MCL 125.474.

"Every dwelling and every part thereof shall be kept clean and shall also be kept free from any accumulation of dirt, filth, rubbish, garbage or other matter in or on the same, or in the yards, courts, passages, areas or alleys connected therewith or belonging to the same. The owner of every dwelling shall be responsible for keeping the entire building free from vermin," the law states.

The appeals court says a key issue will be whether the hotel's pest control practices were sufficient. 

The hotel manager testified that approximately one-third of the total rooms were sprayed by pest control monthly on a rotational basis. Reports indicate that Heuschneider's room was last sprayed on June 8, 2015. According to a pest expert, the spray is effective for approximately one month. Heuschneider was bitten on August 20, 2015.

There was also conflicting testimony concerning how the brown recluse ended up in Heuschneider's room. He testified that he did not transport the spider, but encountered it when he was under the hotel’s bedding for the first time.

Brown recluse spiders are not usually found in Michigan but can travel from one location to another on articles of clothing or luggage. According to livescience.com, "The brown recluse spider is well-known for its appearance and poisonous bite. It is the most common and widespread of the brown spiders, but it is found only in the south and central United States. Brown recluse spiders live in a region comprising Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska."