Lawsuit Alleges TSA Agents Unscrewed Urn, Spilled Mother's Ashes In Man's Suitcase

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By on October 5, 2014 in Court Cases, Current Events with 42 Comments

A lawsuit filed by a man in Cleveland says that he packed his mother’s remains in his suitcase to fly to Puerto Rico to spread her ashes there according to her wishes but found a very unpleasant surprise when he arrived. Upon opening his suitcase, he found the ashes spread all throughout his suitcase along with an inspection notice left by the TSA.

Shannon Thomas (the plaintiff) is suing the Transportation Security Administration and unnamed TSA agents for what happened. The lawsuit states that Thomas “suffered severe and persistent emotional distress and mental anguish when he saw that the urn had been opened and the remains of his other spilled on his clothing and interior of his suitcase.”

The suit further states that the TSA “negligently, carelessly, and recklessly replaced the lid of the urn, placed a bag inspection notice in Plaintiff’s suitcase and sent the bag on its way. This action caused the urn to open and spilled the remains of Plaintiff’s mother on the inside of Plaintiff’s suitcase and on Plaintiff’s personal effects.”

This is what the TSA says is its policy regarding traveling with crematory remains:

Passengers may transport crematory remains as part of their carry-on property or checked baggage. Some airlines do not allow crematory remains as checked baggage, so check with your airline first.

If carrying on the crematory remains, they are subject to screening and must pass through the X-ray machine. If the X-ray Operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm. Under no circumstances will an officer open the container, even if the passenger requests this be done. If the officer cannot determine that the container does not contain a prohibited item, the remains will not be permitted.

Thomas is seeking $750,000 in damages for the incident.

Thomas v. TSA

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.