July 11 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled Wednesday that air passengers can't sue Transportation Security Administration agents over claims of abuse.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said because TSA workers aren't "investigative or law enforcement officers," they are protected by government sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by Florida resident Nadine Pellegrino after police arrested her during an altercation at Philadelphia International Airport in 2006. While going through security, she was singled out by agents for additional screening, to which she objected.
TSA agents said she intentionally hit them with her luggage as she moved to the screening area and after further complications, police arrived and arrested her. She spent 18 hours in jail and later was acquitted of charges related to the altercation.
Pellegrino sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The three-judge panel's 2-1 ruling affirmed a lower district court's opinion.
Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause, who wrote the majority opinion, said the court recognized the ruling means travelers "will have very limited legal redress" for alleged abuse.
Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro, who dissented, said that "by analogizing TSA searches to routine administrative inspections, my colleagues preclude victims of TSA abuses from obtaining any meaningful remedy for a variety of intentional tort claims."