The family of an Air Force veteran who died after he suffered fire ant bites all over his body while at at a Department of Veterans Affairs long-term care facility near Atlanta are to sue the U.S. government along with a pest control company.
Joel Marrable, 74, died in September 2019 as a result of more than 100 fire ant bites while he was a resident at the Eagles Nest Community Living Center, a long-term residence facility for veterans near Atlanta.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Atlanta, the family claim officials from the VA and Orkin and its parent company Rollins Inc. ‘failed to respond appropriately or reasonably to the fire ant infestation in Mr. Marrable’s room.’
Marrable was already bedridden as a result of his cancer.
Joel Marrable was swollen with red bumps all over his body at the nursing home in Atlanta last week
Marrable was moved to another room initially but as soon as he returned, he was attacked again
He was ‘bitten over one hundred times despite’ the facility ‘being aware of prior ant infestation issues at Eagle Nest CLC, the ineffectiveness of prior investigative efforts into the origins of the infestations, the failure of prior treatment or remediation efforts, the improper and inadequate use of certain chemicals, inadequate training and the risks, hazards and foreseeable harm from fire ant bites to patients, including Mr. Marrable’ according to the lawsuit.
The suit was filed by Marrable’s children Laquna Ross, Jamal Ratchford and Raquel Reed are are seeking $10 million each in compensation from both the U.S. government and pest control company Orkin.
Marrable had served in the Air Force from December 1962 until his honorable discharge in July 1968 according to the
The family claim how Eagles Nest officials were aware of infestation of fire ants as early as February 2019 with ‘multiple’ residents having suffered fire ant bites or infestations by June 2019.
Joel Marrable, who was covered with ant bites at a VA facility in Atlanta before his death in September 2019
Marrable was bitten by the fire ants on September 2, 2019. He was washed off and moved to another room.
After returning to his room three days later, he ‘was again attacked by another wave of fire ants, which again crawled across his room, into his bed and over and across his body, where again he was bitten dozens and dozens of times.’
Marrable’s family say that before the ant bits, Marrable was ‘lucid and alert’ and ‘planning to live out his remaining months in peace, surrounded by loving friends and family.’
After the bites, everything seemed to change.
‘The ant bite attack significantly weakened Mr. Marrable’s resolve and caused extreme pain, suffering, discomfort and anxiety. The second wave of fire ants that bit Mr. Marrable again over his arms, legs, trunk and groin proved too much for his weakened body and spirit to bear. Due to the effects of over a hundred insidious fire ant bites on his already cancer-weakened body, Mr. Marrable passed away prematurely on September 7, 2019.’
The lawsuit charges Eagle Nest staff with negligence in their failure to: prevent the fire ant infestation; remove insect-attracting food from patient rooms; and keep the rooms clean. Orkin officials were negligent in failing to provide ‘appropriate and adequate pest control services’ at the time.
He was bitten more than 100 times by ants at government veterans’ home, the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center. The facility has since been decommissioned
VA officials have declined comment on the lawsuit.
‘The Atlanta VA Health Care System continues to mourn the loss of Joel Marrable. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. However, we do not comment on pending litigation.’
Orkin officials say they are looking into the issues raised in the lawsuit.
‘We only became aware of this lawsuit yesterday afternoon, and we are reviewing the case. Based upon our initial review, our records indicate we were only hired to perform limited exterior pest control services for some of the campus during 2019 and were not hired to perform interior pest control services. We will continue our review, and most importantly, our thoughts remain with this Veteran’s family.’
‘This patient, at the end of his life, was clearly not being monitored closely enough,’ then-Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said at the time. ‘I am so sad for his family who had to discover his insect-infested conditions before anything was reportedly done.’
VA officials determined ‘the building is no longer suitable for residential patient care,’ according to a statement issued in December
After Marrable’s death, the director of the regional network was placed on immediate administrative leave, a new director was named and all personnel involved in reporting urgent issues were retrained.
VA officials have since decided to decommission the Eagles Nest facility and move patients to another one.
VA officials determined ‘the building is no longer suitable for residential patient care,’ according to a statement issued in December.
‘There is no excuse for what happened to this veteran,’ said Brewster S. Rawls, an Army veteran and one of the attorneys representing Marrable’s family. ‘Not only was his life — and his family’s time with him shortened, but the misery of his last days is beyond description.’