Traveler sues Orlando airport, TSA for ‘stranding’ him in The Villages over mask mandate

CDC, TSA, Homeland Security, U.S. president named as defendants

A sign requiring masks is displayed as travelers move about at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A sign requiring masks is displayed as travelers move about at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Washington D.C. man says he is stranded in The Villages after he was not allowed to board a flight last week when he declined to put on a face mask to comply with the federal mandate.

Now he’s suing federal agencies, the Orlando International Airport and President Joe Biden for damages, according to court documents.

Lucas Wall is the named plaintiff in the case. The complaint reads that Wall wants to permanently prohibit the enforcement of the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate and the International Traveler Testing Requirement.

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Wall is filing the lawsuit after the Transportation Security Administration refused to let him board a flight out of OIA last week for not wearing a mask even though he says he has a qualifying disability, court records show. Wall said he has general anxiety disorder and previous attempts of wearing a mask have instigated symptoms of a panic attack, including hyperventilating and other breathing trouble. He carries a special card to evade mask-wearing during the pandemic, the lawsuit reads.

“I am currently stranded at my mother’s house in The Villages,” Wall, who is representing himself, writes in the suit.

He is essentially seeking to do away with airport mask mandates and mandatory coronavirus testing for international travel, records show.

Wall said the two orders were collectively encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation and Biden, according to the lawsuit. The federal agencies and the president are all named defendants in the case and collectively referred to as “federal defendants.”

The plaintiff said he is also seeking to eliminate any face-covering requirements outlined by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which oversees operations at OIA. He also names the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which does business with LYNX, the public transportation operator for the Orlando region. Wall writes mask mandates under these two agencies are “in direct violation of a Florida executive order prohibiting any subdivision of the state from requiring face coverings,” the lawsuit states.

Wall claims his case is the first to challenge the federal mask mandate at airports.

“Surprisingly, this lawsuit appears to be the first in the nation to challenge all aspects of the FTMM, and the first seeking to strike down the ITTR,” court documents read. “The defendants’ goal of easing the impact of COVID-19 is laudable by grossly misguided.”

He cites that because of the federal mask mandate at airports, state, local and regional transportation agencies are required to enforce a federal policy that is in direct violation of state law.

Wall, who opted to fly Southwest, said when he purchased his tickets on May 31 he submitted his application to be exempt from the federal mask requirement writing it is illegal to require advance notice of disability accommodation, claiming Southwest was in violating laws by requesting such information.

“I wrote in the text box of that form: ‘Please note it is illegal under the Air Carrier Access Act regulations (14 CFR 382) for you to require: 1. a disability accommodation request be submitted in advance; 2. a signed letter from my medical physician attesting to my disability that precludes me from wearing a face mask; 3. me to undergo a private medical screening with a third-party medical provider; and 4. require me to provide evidence of a qualifying COVID negative viral test taken within three calendar days preceding my scheduled date of travel,” he outlines in the lawsuit.

Wall also said Southwest’s face mask exemption policy also constitutes illegal discrimination against passengers with disabilities adding that he is fully vaccinated and “don’t pose a threat to anyone.”

In the suit, Wall calls mask-wearing an infringement of his civil liberties. He calls on Biden to deem his executive order regarding COVID-19 safety in domestic and international travel unconstitutional. He asks the federal agencies to also roll back their face covering and testing mandates.

He also asks defendants to “award me all costs and attorneys’ fees (if I later hire an attorney to represent me in this lawsuit) pursuant to any applicable statute or authority.”