FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN) — A poisonous spider bite in the hill country has turned into a lengthy legal battle between two men. The case has now made it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
The drama began in December 2014, when Henry McCall, a caretaker on an Airbnb property in Fredericksburg was bit by a brown recluse spider.
The bite caused immediate bruising and swelling and an infection spread from the arm to McCall’s heart. McCall, 65-years-old at the time, spent 75 days in the hospital, underwent six operations and spent nearly $600,000 on medical expenses.
“By the grace of God, I am still here,” McCall said. “And I’m grateful for that.”
McCall filed a lawsuit against the property owner Homer Hillis, who claimed he should be liable for his suffering since he didn’t warn him of the possible danger at the property.
The Texas Supreme Court heard the case Jan. 9. He argues being held liable would overturn a legal doctrine, ferae naturae, which does not require landowners to inform guests of property conditions, like the presence of poisonous spiders.
The Texas Supreme Court didn’t make a decision on the case, but heard both sides before adjourning for the day. They are expected to make a decision in a couple weeks.
This legal precedent of ferae naturae is based on the conclusion that indigenous species, like the brown recluse, are native to the land where the property lies.
However, there is no legal precedent from an indigenous animal attacking or biting a person indoors.
“If he was outside [when he was bit], yeah, there would be no case,” McCall’s attorney, Cory Smith said.
In past trials and appeals leading up to this Supreme Court argument, McCall has claimed that Hillis knew about the infestation.
Court documents reveal McCall noticed “a full-sized cotton mattress and its metal frame [were] infested with spiders.”
But Hillis claims he had an exterminator come and take care of the property several times, a statement McCall refutes.
Hillis also mentions his “stellar online reviews,” which never mentions an arachnid problem. He also points out, any judgement that holds him liable will be detrimental for anyone who operates a property in the hill country.