Federal Appeals Court Rules You Can’t Sue TSA Screeners Even If They Assault and Abuse You

TSA screening can feel to some people like sexual assault but the government says that it isn’t. But what if a TSA screener actually assaults you at the checkpoint? The TSA has argued you shouldn’t be allowed to sue if they hit you in the groin.

A federal appeals court has already ruled that even if a TSA screener has you arrested and lies under oath that you cannot sue, because 9/11.

Now the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit says that you cannot sue a TSA screener for “assaults, false arrests and other abuses” precisely because they aren’t really “investigative or law enforcement officers” and thus are shielded by the Federal Tort Claims Act.

TSA wants to call its screeners ‘officers’ except when doing so could expose them to liability for actually attacking passengers. The Court said to passengers, ‘sorry not sorry’.

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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. Of course, it’s not an earth-shattering revelation that TSA “officers” have more in common with the folks at the motor vehicle administration than the FBI. It is a sad commentary on the state of things that you may be groped at the airport as much as they’d like. But, if they damage your clothes, you can file a claim under the FTCA.

  2. Maybe instead of asking to file a complaint, a wronged traveler should just call the police, claim assault and get the TSA agent arrested right then. Even if they walk later and damages cannot be required, that’ll show ’em. Although likely the police will side with TSA and arrest the traveler instead…

  3. The way it works is that you file a claim against the agency, TSA, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and not against the employee personally. The Act does not shield an employee from prosecution for criminal acts.

  4. If @Jetaway is correct, then one cannot sue TSA employees for damages, but one can file criminal charges against them. A worthwhile clarification.

  5. Actually, @Jetaway, federal employees cannot be charged under state law for anything while carrying out their official duties (supremacy clause). You could call the cops, but they’d be unable to arrest the TSA agent. Obviously this isn’t a complete get-out-of-jail-free. But, charges have to be brought in federal court and the justice department is unlikely to charge a tsa agent except in the most grievous instances of abuse.

  6. @Andy-employees carrying out their official duties are presumably not doing something criminal. A TSA employee who shoots his spouse for infidelity while on duty would most certainly be arrested since wife-shooting is not an official duty.

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