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Fri, May 28, 2010

Florida Woman Sues TSA Over Missing Rolex

Claims It Disappeared During Security Screening

A Baker County, FL woman has filed a lawsuit against TSA because a Rolex watch she said she was required to take off for security screening vanished before she was allowed retrieve it.

Pauline Showalter said her husband had given her the watch, valued about $24,000, for her 50th birthday.

The Florida Times-Union reports that the incident occurred in February, 2009 at Norfolk Airport in Virginia. According to Showalter, she was reluctant to put the watch on the conveyer belt before walking through the metal detector. She did so when she was told she had no choice if she wanted to board her flight to Jacksonville, FL. She says she asked a screener if they would hold the watch, but was told "No."

After the initial screening, she was selected for additional screening. She asked if she could first retrieve her watch, and she says she again was told "no." When she returned to the conveyer belt, she says the watch was gone.

Showalter contacted her congressman, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL4), who was told that TSA policy allows passengers to wear jewelry during the walk-through, or they can retrieve it immediately after leaving the X-ray scan. If an item requires an additional look, that is done in view of the owner, TSA told Crenshaw.

If the passenger is selected for addition screening, Crenshaw was told that screeners are not required to return an item if it can be seen during that additional screening process. All that being said, TSA claims that Showalter was not wearing an expensive Rolex when she cleared security that day, and she was told in a letter that there were "no legally sustainable grounds" for her claim against the agency.

You might think security cameras would have seen someone taking the watch from the security area, but in its response to Congressman Crenshaw, TSA said the cameras were not working that day.

Showalter says she asked for police to be called, but was told by the TSA agents that she was disrupting the area and had to leave. Police eventually were called when Showalter found a co-worker at the airport who is a lawyer. Showalter works as a secretary in the Duval County, FL Public Defenders Office.

TSA Spokeswoman Lauran Gaches said the agency won't comment on pending litigation. Showalter's lawyer, Howard Coker, told the paper that there are eyewitnesses who saw Showalter wearing the watch on the day in question. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Jacksonville. FL just before Showalter would lose that right under the statute of limitations.

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.flmd.uscourts.gov

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