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
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
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.