Rohan Ramsingh v. TSA

TSA faces lawsuit following unwarranted search

On Aug. 10, 2021, U.S. Army veteran Rohan Ramsignh petitioned for a court review to the District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) for what he believed was an unjustifiable charge for non-compliance of screening.  

In 2019 at the Tampa International Airport, Ramsingh was at the security checkpoint when he informed the screeners of his multiple military-service related disabilities, including an extensive shoulder injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ramsingh travels multiple times a year and knows the routine of the TSA’s screening process.

When Ramsingh had triggered the explosive detection device, he was moved to another machine for imaging. This imaging required Ramsingh to lift both arms above his head, something he was physically unable to do because of his shoulder injury. 

Because he could not lift his arms for the imaging, the TSA procedures “dictated that a pat down search was necessary to resolve the positive” test, according to the TSA screener present. Ramsingh refused the patdown due to his PTSD from sexual trauma while in the military. The TSA suggested moving to a more private area to conduct the patdown search, but Ramsingh declined and said that he would leave the checkpoint area.

Despite voluntarily leaving, the TSA called the airport police to escort Ramsingh from the premises because of non-compliance. According to Ramsingh’s attorney Johnathan Corbett, he was compliant and remained calm during the entire interaction with the TSA until he suggested that he would simply leave and not fly. 

The TSA defends their actions by stating that Ramsingh leaving and not completing the screening process “ interfered with TSA screening personnel in the performance of their duties” according to the TSA.

The TSA proceeded to charge Ramsingh with a civil penalty fee of $2,050 for interference under 49 CFR § 1540.109. The charge was eventually reduced to $680, but the TSA refused to dismiss it when Ramsingh appealed it. 

The TSA stood by their story that Ramsingh refused to comply with the screening process, was denied boarding to his flight and escorted for non-compliance. However, Ramsingh’s attorney counteracts by stating that he was not purposefully non-compliant, but could not comply because of his disabilities. 

During the hearing, the TSA’s attorney Kyle Edwards from the Department of Justice’s civil division made the statement, “It’s the case here that if certain passengers cannot go through the process due to their disabilities, or due to other reasons, they simply won’t be able to fly.” 

Edwards said that the security measures have precedence over accommodations to board, even with disabled individuals. 

One of the judges present, Judge Patricia Millet, asked TSA’s attorney about accommodations for those who have disabilities and cannot complete parts of the screening process. Edwards responded that, in the situation that the explosives detector is set off, there are none. 

“That’s a little shocking to me,” Judge Millet said. 

Judge Millet brought up the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which grants transportation rights to disabled individuals. 

Documentation that Ramsingh was physically unable to comply with the screening process was brought to the Court and accepted.

On July 24, 2021, the Court found that “passive noncompliance, unaccompanied by any active resistance or disruption, constitutes interference sufficient to violate,” that “no mens rea (criminal intent) is required to violate,” and that “that the existence of a medical condition that limits

one’s ability to comply with screening orders is not a defense to a § 1540.109

Charge” according to the official case document. 

On Aug. 10, 2021, Ramsingh filed another lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. District. This lawsuit is still pending.