After serving his country for six years, Air Force veteran Joel Marrable died in a Veterans Affairs facility covered in more than 100 fire ant bites. The 73-year-old's three adult children are now suing the government, alleging that the bites contributed to his death days later. According to the negligence lawsuit, Marrable, who had advanced lung cancer, was bedridden and unable to defend himself when ants invaded his room at the Eagles’ Nest Community Living Center in Atlanta on Sept. 2, 2019. He was bitten more than 100 times—but his family wasn't notified. He was briefly relocated but was returned to the same room and was bitten "dozens and dozens" of times on Sept. 5, the lawsuit states, per the Military Times. He died two days later.
The lawsuit says outside medical experts dispute a VA-ordered autopsy's finding that the bites didn't contribute to Marrable's death. Attorney Brewster S. Rawls tells the New York Times that there is "poison" in the bites and "the shock of the bites and the toxins, cumulatively, were just enough to push the poor man over the edge." Marrable served from 1962 until his honorable discharge in 1968. According to the lawsuit, he was "lucid and alert" before the ant attacks and had been "planning to live out his remaining months in peace, surrounded by loving friends and family." The lawsuit is seeking $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the government and pest control company Orkin. (Read more Department of Veterans Affairs stories.)