Fliers can sue over airport screener abuses: US appeals court

Source: Business Insurance

September 03, 2019 (Reuters) — A federal appeals court on Friday handed a victory to travelers who object to invasive screenings at U.S. airport security checkpoints, saying screeners are not absolutely immune from lawsuits accusing them of abusive conduct. In a 9-4 decision, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Transportation Security Administration screeners were “investigative or law enforcement officers” for purposes of searching passengers, waiving the government’s usual immunity from lawsuits. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said the “intimate physical nature” of airport screenings brought them within the ambit of law enforcement, allowing travelers to pursue some civil claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act for intentional wrongdoing. He downplayed concern that the decision would open the floodgates to litigation, saying that in 2015 fewer than 200 people, out of more than 700 million screened, filed complaints that might trigger the waiver. “The overwhelming majority of perform their jobs professionally despite far more grumbling than appreciation,” he wrote. “Their professionalism is commensurate with the seriousness of their role in keeping our skies safe.”