Court Rules TSA Agents Are Immune From Abuse Lawsuits Filed By Passengers

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Posted: Jul 12, 2018 10:20 AM
Court Rules TSA Agents Are Immune From Abuse Lawsuits Filed By Passengers

Government employees working for the Transportation Security Administration just got a free pass to touch your junk while in uniform at the airport and there's nothing you can do about it.

According to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, because TSA employees aren't technically federal law enforcement, they are immune from nearly all abuse lawsuits. From Reuters

In a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners are shielded by government sovereign immunity from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act because they do not function as “investigative or law enforcement officers.” 

The majority said it was “sympathetic” to concerns that its decision would leave fliers with “very limited legal redress” for alleged mistreatment by aggressive or overzealous screeners, which add to the ordinary stresses of air travel. 

And the background on how we got to this point: 

The decision, the first on the issue by a federal appeals court, was a defeat for Nadine Pellegrino, a business consultant from Boca Raton, Florida.

She and her husband had sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution over a July 2006 altercation at Philadelphia International Airport.

According to court papers, Pellegrino had been randomly selected for additional screening at the Philadelphia airport before boarding a US Airways flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Pellegrino, then 57, objected to the invasiveness of the search, but conditions deteriorated and she was later jailed for about 18 hours, the papers show. Criminal charges were filed, and Pellegrino was acquitted at a March 2008 trial.

So how do individuals who are abused by TSA agents get justice? It's going to take an act of Congress. 

“For most people, TSA screenings are an unavoidable feature of flying,” but it is “squarely in the realm” of Congress to expand liability for abuses, Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause wrote.

Get on it, Capitol Hill.