United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. For the following reasons, that Motion is granted.
Brian Iverson contends that he was injured by Transportation
Security Administration agents while going through security
screening at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in September
2011. (Compl. (Docket No. 1) ¶ 8.) According to Iverson,
he was using crutches due to an unrelated incident, and a TSA
agent made Iverson stand up without the crutches and then
pulled him forward, causing him to lose his balance and fall.
(Id. ¶ 12.) Iverson contends that he suffered
from a separated shoulder and a bruised nerve, and that the
fall exacerbated his preexisting injuries. (Id.
filed an administrative claim about the incident with TSA in
2013. (Id. ¶ 2.) That claim was denied in early
2018, and Iverson brought this lawsuit under the Federal Tort
Claims Act (“FTCA”) against the United States and
the TSA. Iverson's Complaint alleges that the actions of
the TSA agents constituted a battery under Minnesota law and,
in the alternative, that the TSA agents were negligent.
(Id. ¶¶ 20, 26.) In response to the
Government's Motion, Iverson concedes that the TSA is not
a proper party to the lawsuit, and he does not oppose the
dismissal of the TSA from the case. (Pl.'s Opp'n Mem.
(Docket No. 16) at 1 n.1.)
Government's Motion to Dismiss argues that the FTCA's
reach does not extend to intentional torts such as battery,
that the law-enforcement exception to the FTCA's battery
exception does not apply to TSA agents, and that
Iverson's negligence claim is also barred by the FTCA. In
the alternative, the Government contends that Iverson has
failed to plausibly plead his negligence claim.
does not dispute that the FTCA exempts from its reach
intentional torts, like his battery claim. He argues that the
FTCA's law-enforcement exception applies and that he has
plausibly pled a negligence claim that is outside the reach
of the FTCA's intentional-tort exception.
FTCA provides a limited waiver of the Government's
sovereign immunity from suit for certain negligence claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2674. But the FTCA specifically
excludes from its reach claims arising out of intentional
torts. Id. § 2680(h). As relevant here,
however, the FTCA also contains an exception to that
intentional-tort exclusion, providing that the Government may
be liable for certain intentional torts committed by
“investigative or law enforcement officers of the
United States Government.” Id. An
“investigative or law enforcement officer” is one
“who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize
evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal
law.” Id. Whether the TSA agents involved here
are “investigative or law enforcement officers”
is dispositive of Iverson's battery claim.
argues that the Court must accept as true his allegation that
the TSA agents were law-enforcement officers, but this
allegation is irrelevant. When there is a challenge to the
Court's subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court may look
beyond a complaint's allegations to resolve disputes.
Johnson v. United States, 534 F.3d 958, 962 (8th
Cir. 2008). Moreover, whether TSA agents are law-enforcement
officers under § 2680(h) is a question of law, not fact.
also relies on a decision finding that TSA agents
“may” be investigative or law-enforcement
officers within the meaning of § 2680(h). Pellegrino
v. U.S. Transp. Sec. Admin., 855 F.Supp.2d 343, 357
(E.D. Pa. 2012). A week before the hearing on the instant
Motion, however, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued an
opinion in the same case, determining that the FTCA's
law-enforcement exception does not apply to TSA agents such
as those here. Pellegrino v. U.S. Transp. Sec.
Admin., No. 15-3047, 2018 WL 3371699, at *17 (3rd Cir.
July 11, 2018).
plaintiff in Pellegrino challenged the conduct of
TSA agents during an airport screening, contending that they
damaged her property and falsely arrested her. Id.
at *3. The district court ultimately ruled against Pellegrino
on summary judgment, concluding that the TSA agents were not
law-enforcement officers under the law-enforcement exception.
Pellegrino v. U.S. Transp. Sec. Admin., No.
09cv5505, 2014 WL 1489939, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 16, 2014).
After exhaustively discussing the text, history, and purpose
of both the FTCA and the statute giving rise to the TSA, the
Aviation and Transportation Security Act
(“ATSA”), Pub. L. No. 107-71, 115 Stat. 597
(2001), the court of appeals agreed. The court of appeals
reasoned that because the law-enforcement exception was
intended to give a remedy to persons injured by overzealous
police searches, the exception applies only to
“officers with criminal law enforcement powers.”
Pellegrino, 2018 WL 3371699, at *7, 11-12.
court also noted that the ATSA created two different
airport-security positions-TSA screening agents, and TSA
law-enforcement officers-and only TSA law-enforcement
officers were empowered to search for criminal contraband,
make arrests, and carry firearms. See 49 U.S.C.
§§ 114(p), 44903(a). Screeners, on the other hand,
carry out essentially administrative searches, looking not
for items that are otherwise illegal but rather for items
that are prohibited aboard aircraft. Id. §
44901(g)(5). Because TSA screeners do not have the power to
conduct the extensive searches that ...