A New Weapon Against TSA Gropings – Tortsviable new weapons, says expert
While Texas’s efforts to pass legislation to fight groping by TSA employees at airports may have been derailed by federal threats to shut down its air space – a fate which could await similar bills in Utah and other states – law suits based upon existing tort law theories have now been shown to be viable, and a potential new weapon if utilized properly, says the public interest law professor who developed novel legal theories which have been used against the tobacco and food industries, pricing and other discrimination against women, and even against Spiro T. Agnew and violations of potty parity.
A women who was inappropriately and embarrassingly searched by TSA employees succeeded in forcing the government to compensate her, based upon common law tort claims of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While most of the media coverage has focused on the paltry amount of the settlement – only $2350 – they may be overlooking its potential significance and possible precedent value, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
“This settlement strongly suggests that the TSA can’t avoid such law suits by broad claims that federal law authorizing TSA searches completely overrides state law, the various defenses set forth in the Federal Torts Claims Act [FTCA] such as the “discretionary function exemption,” or that passengers, by passing through a TSA checkpoint, automatically consent to whatever touchings or other invasions of their personal privacy which might occur,” says Banzhaf.
Although the amount recovered in this initial case may be small, and possibly not even worth the effort to litigate it, there’s every reason to believe that juries, increasingly outraged by overly intrusive searches – especially of the elderly, the disabled, young children, etc. – could return much larger verdicts, including even punitive damages in amounts significant to deter such unlawful conduct, argues Banzhaf.