There is a bizarre lawsuit this week against Continental Airlines by a gay couple who say that the airline caused them emotional distress after baggage workers removed a dildo and taped it to the outside of their suitcase. Christopher Bridgemann and Martin Borger say that the sex toy was openly displayed to other passengers when they picked up their luggage.
The couple was flying from Costa Rica to Houston on May 21, 2011 when they retrieved their luggage and rechecked their bags onto a flight to Norfolk, Va. As the bags came around the luggage carrier in Norfolk, they saw the toy had been removed from the luggage and was “covered in a greasy foul-smelling substance and taped prominently to the top of their bag.”
Plaintiffs were experiencing such a high degree of shock and embarrassment that they felt compelled to call two friends to come to the airport to assist them.Fortunately, the friends arrived and were able to assist plaintiffs out of the airport and to their home, but by that time the damage had already been done, and plaintiffs had suffered severe emotional trauma.
An account from the men can be found on this site.
The Restatement (2nd) of Torts, section 46, states:
One who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress, and if bodily harm to the other results from it, for such bodily harm.
That would seem to fit in such a case. There is also the possibility of privacy torts, particularly the public disclosure of embarrassing private fact and inclusion upon seclusion. The later is weakened by the fact that you consent to searches at airport, but the former would appear a viable claim.
Judging from another recent case, they are lucky a note was not also attached to the sex toy.