In 10 States You Can Now Sue If TSA Screeners Intentionally Hurt You

Last year, ruling en banc, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that TSA screeners are not immune from suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act for intentional harm that they do to passengers.

The TSA argues that although they call their screeners Transportation Security Officers (“TSOs”) they aren’t actually officers, and that they don’t actually search anyone just ‘screen’ them.

The third circuit didn’t buy that, deciding 9-4 that TSA security checkpoint employees are “officers or employees” of the federal government and that they “execute searches.”

Now the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a similar ruling in Iverson v. TSA. (HT: Papers Please)

Brian Iverson went through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Because of a prior injury, Iverson walked with the aid of crutches. At the security checkpoint, TSOs performed a pat-down search. During that search, Iverson was allowed to place his hands on his crutches but had to stand on his own power. Iverson alleges that a TSO pulled him forward and then abruptly let go, causing Iverson to fall. The fall injured Iverson.

Iverson filed an administrative claim, which the TSA denied. He then filed this suit, asserting battery and negligence claims. The government moved to dismiss, arguing that the FTCA’s waiver of sovereign immunity does not cover intentional torts, such as battery.

As a result of the ruling, you can now sue TSA for any intentional battery they may inflict on you as a passenger in the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. They join Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands) in recognizing this right of redress.

In the 11th Circuit states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia you cannot sue under the 2014 decision in Jonathan Corbett v. TSA. Increasingly then we’re seeing a circuit split, making it possible that the Supreme Court may someday rule on TSA-imposed beatings and sovereign immunity.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The key here is “intentional” harm. That is a very vague term and would be very difficult to prove in court. Frankly not sure this materially expands rights of travelers. BTW, I’m not an “anti TSA” guy – I feel they perform a necessary job and give them the respect I would anyone in law enforcement. Amazing how I have never had a problem with them. Attitude really doesn’t make people.

  2. Unfortunately it’ll probably be impossible to prove “intentional”. Just like it’s basically impossible to use the Malicious Prosecution argument to recover damages, etc.

  3. @ The Brain “law enforcement” I do not see how TSA qualifies as such. They are not trained as such, they can not arrest, they can not do anything else that the local and state police can do. They can not make a search of a person or their belongs outside of the property of the airport building (I do not think they have any authority once they leave the building– it is then up to he FBI, CIA, State and Local police to act. They do not have the right to remove a passenger from the building even (they must get local police to do that.)

    As for “intentional” any lawyer will make that argument and any lawyer will have to defend it. If there is NOT a camera covered by the area then someone is going to get into TROUBLE for that, which will just make TSA liable at that point

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