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  1. #1

    Question How to Sue the TSA for Property Damage

    The TSA broke my laptop, which has a depreciated value of about $750. I'm not sure what the fees & process are for suing in Federal court, but I would still like to find out. Is there a link to the process you have, or something like that you could point me to?

    In spite of the low value of this lawsuit, it still just seems wrong that they can break stuff and get away with it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Your case will be tossed if you don't first try to avail yourself of the administrative remedy. You must start here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/passenger-support/claims

  3. #3

    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Already done. Claim filed with the TSA, they rejected it saying they were not responsible to return the laptop to it's protective packing within the suitcase.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Was this checked luggage?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Correct, checked luggage. It had a "TSA has searched this bag" notice in it (which I still have), the contents looked like they were dumped out on a table then scooped back in. Laptop was packed at the center and protected. If the TSA had put it back the way the found it, it would have easily survived even very rough handling.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    There was no separate internal case for the computer?

    I feel for you. I've had the TSA cut open a zip lock bag that was full of handouts for a class I was teaching. I've had them cut open other resealable stuff rather than just opening it. My wife packed and extra bag and some duct tape with a vacuum pump she had checked and left them a note asking them to make sure they seal it back up if they open it (it leaks oil). They didn't.

    Alas, I doubt you'll get anywhere in federal court if you just had it wrapped among your clothes. Alas, as TM pointed out, there's no "small claims" or other procedure to make it easier for the pro se litigant.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Quote Quoting RD1
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    Already done. Claim filed with the TSA, they rejected it saying they were not responsible to return the laptop to it's protective packing within the suitcase.
    Ok, if you filed the administrative claim and it was rejected by TSA then your next step is to file a complaint against the United States (not TSA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado if you reside in Colorado. The filing fee is $400. If you win, you get that filing fee added to the judgment. If you lose, you lose the $400. So there is a risk of losing even more than the value of the laptop that was damaged here. You must then properly serve the Department of Justice (DOJ), which will represent the government in the lawsuit. Note that there are no juries in lawsuits against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

    Your complaint must clearly set forth the basis for the court's jurisdiction and, since you are suing the government, the basis for the waiver of sovereign immunity. For the waiver of sovereign immunity you'd cite the FTCA, specifically 28 U.S. Code 2674. As for the subject matter jurisdiction for the District Court, that is provided by 28 U.S. Code 1346(b)(1) for a tort claim. (Lawsuits for injury or loss as the result of negligence is one type of tort claim in the law.) Your complaint must also set out the facts that would support the claim, i.e. the facts that show the TSA was negligent and damaged your laptop, what the laptop was worth, etc. I cannot guide you in detail in drafting the complaint and there is no form available you can fill out for it. So you'll have to draft one yourself.

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has a checklist of what all is needed to file the lawsuit, including civil cover sheet, etc.

    The rules for litigation in federal court are provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Look carefully there as it has additional rules for filing the lawsuit and then how things go after you file. You also need to look at the District Court's own local rules. You'll also need to know the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) for any hearing or trial in the case.

    If all this is starting to give you the impression that suing in federal court is a lot more complicated than suing in small claims court, well, it is a lot more complicated. And you'll be going up against a DOJ attorney who knows these rules well and has experience with litigating in that court. I don't say that to discourage you from suing but rather to impress upon you that you will have to really study up as you go along if you want to get it right. If you make a mistake in procedure, that alone could kill your case, even if you otherwise had a good case.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    It's a sweet deal. The TSA makes the rules, then they also judge weather they followed the rules. How fair. Thought there was something I heard once in school about separation of powers?

    In the future, I'm sending anything of value via UPS, insured. The only way of successfully dealing with the TSA seems to be not to not deal with them.

    Anyway, thanks for the advise & sharing your story. Makes me feel less alone in this experience.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    6,784

    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    Quote Quoting RD1
    View Post
    It's a sweet deal. The TSA makes the rules, then they also judge weather they followed the rules. How fair. Thought there was something I heard once in school about separation of powers?
    If the TSA damaged your property as a result of negligence you can sue the government in court for that. So there is separation of powers at work; TSA is not the sole judge of whether it is liable for the damage. However, since you have to do it in federal court and the rules for suing in federal court are not simple, it can be a difficult to do without a lawyer. I described some of what must be done in my earlier reply.

    The best thing to do is secure your property in a way that cannot be easily damaged. Put the laptop, at a minimum, in its own protective case/sleeve. If you just pack in the middle of the suitcase surrounded by clothes and trusting that the clothes will provide the necessary protection, you are risking all kinds of things that might happen that would damage the laptop. I always carry the laptop with me rather than putting it in checked baggage.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    661

    Default Re: Serving the Tsa with Small Claims

    When you contacted your homeowners/renters insurance carrier about this, what did the claims adjuster tell you?

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