– News covered by Quincy Quarry News .
TSA screeners can be sued over mistreatment by passengers rules court.
Finally, payback is possible!
The Philadelphia-based Third United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a nine to four decision that travelers can sue the government over mistreatment by federal airport screeners.
The decision overturned earlier rulings and is a setback for the Transportation Security Administration and its screeners.
The government is generally immune from lawsuits, but a federal law lets people sue over the actions of officers who can conduct searches and arrest people.
A district court judge and a three-judge panel of the same appeals court said TSA officers are just screeners who inspect passengers and bags. The full appeals court said, however, that screeners aren’t entitled to immunity from lawsuits because they perform searches for violations of federal law.
The court majority noted that TSA calls the screeners officers, they wear uniforms with badges including that title, and hold positions of authority.
The judges also rejected the government’s argument that airport screening is different from a search because airline passengers consent to it. The judges found that the TSA agents do indeed conduct searches, including that screeners can explore a passenger’s entire body, including sensitive areas.
While technically the decision is limited to applicability in the states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and – inexplicably – the US.Virgin Islands, federal trial courts in other states tend to find precedent in cases decided by another federal circuit court of appeals.
The underlying lawsuit was filed by Nadine Pellegrino, a Florida woman. She sued over a search at the Philadelphia airport in 2006, saying screeners damaged her property and falsely claimed she hit them with a bag. She was arrested but found not guilty at trial.
The Justice Department declined to comment when asked whether it plans to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.