Federal Court Confirms Plaintiff’s Standing Based on Risk of Future Harm While Traveling, and Also Allows Tort Claims Against the Government for False Imprisonment to Proceed

In an opinion dated August 8, a federal court in the Central District of California ruled that a U.S. citizen who was detained on an outbound flight for several hours, and handcuffed when he refused to provide passwords for his electronics, does have standing to sue based on the realistic likelihood of future harm when traveling. The Court also ruled that the plaintiff can proceed with his tort claims against the government, including false imprisonment/arrest, battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

View Order re Motions to Dismiss

On the issue of standing, District Judge Josephine L. Staton ruled that “Plaintiff pleads more than mere aspirations to leave the United States. First, he alleges an established pattern of international travel that he alleges would continue this year but for Official-Capacity Defendants’ conduct. Second, Plaintiff’s regular visits to his family abroad sufficiently concretize his alleged future travel intentions for standing purposes even if he has not literally purchased tickets yet. Accordingly, Plaintiff has standing to seek prospective relief against Official Capacity Defendants.” While the Court ultimately found those claims against the Official Capacity defendants could not continue based on binding case law in the Ninth Circuit, this ruling clarifies for future cases that specific future reservations are not needed to show future harm based on past actions by the TSA and its officers.

As to the government’s attempt to have the plaintiff’s tort claims dismissed, the Court also found in the Plaintiff’s favor. Holding that “the Complaint provides a detailed account of the underlying factual events and alleged conduct by the government’s employees” as well as “clear statements of the legal theories under which Plaintiff asserts the government might be liable for such conduct,” the Court denied the motion to dismiss the complaint. “This is textbook pleading under Rule 8 and the Court does not grasp the government’s apparent confusion. The government implies that each and every factual allegation must be tagged or otherwise cross-referenced to the cause(s) of action it supports, but [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8 is not so demanding.”

CLCMA’s Civil Litigation Department Head Christina Jump, one of the attorneys of record on the case, stated that “we are pleased by both portions of the Court’s ruling. The Central District of California reasonably recognized that harm need not relate only to a precise reservation in order to provide a plaintiff standing to complain about the likely risk of repeated behavior in the future. We are also glad that our client is entitled to his day in court based on the facts of his case, his clear allegations of false arrest and imprisonment as well as other torts committed by the government, and the logical reading of our Complaint on his behalf. The Court opted not to accept the defendant’s argument that each sentence needs to be related to each specific claim alleged, and instead applied reason and common sense in refusing to go beyond what the Federal Rules require plaintiffs to do.”

CLCMA looks forward to pursuing this and its many other active cases on behalf of its clients, and protecting their constitutional rights in federal court.