A Virginia couple is suing Continental Airlines and United Continental Holdings, claiming they discovered at baggage claim a sex toy workers had taped to their luggage.
On May 21, 2011, realtor Christopher Bridgeman, 34, and Martin Borger, 35, an architect, returned from a vacation from Costa Rica to Norfolk, Va. When the couple arrived in Houston on a layover, they retrieved their checked luggage, "which was undisturbed at that time," according to the suit filed against United Continental Holdings and Continental Airlines with the Harris County district court in Virginia on Friday.
The couple went through customs, then rechecked their bags before boarding their flight to Norfolk with Continental, which was merged with United Airlines in 2010 to form United Continental Holdings. After arriving in Virginia, they went to the baggage claim.
"Plaintiffs' bags were sent to the baggage carousel where Plaintiffs discovered, to their horror, that a private sex toy had been removed from one of their bags, covered in a greasy foul-smelling substance, and taped prominently to the top of their bag," the suit states.
The suit says the couple "experienced extreme shock and horror when they observed the above-described bag and when observing the surprised and/or laughing faces of numerous onlookers in the baggage claim area."
The couple "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," but by the time the friends arrived, "the damage had already been done, and the Plaintiffs had suffered severe emotional trauma," the suit states.
The filing states there "because of the fact that the sex toy was contained in the bag of a male, and because the employee(s) responsible knew that the bag belonged to a male due to the name tag attached to the bag and the male clothing contained in the bag, there is a high likelihood that these egregious acts were directed towards Plaintiffs because they are homosexuals and because they are male."
A spokeswoman for United Continental told ABC News, "United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. After conducting a thorough investigation, we determined that there is no support for this allegation. Nonetheless, we offered these valued customers a gesture of goodwill which they declined. We will vigorously defend ourselves and our employees."
"We believe that every person – no matter their age, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation – has a right to privacy and should be treated with dignity and respect," Harry Scarborough, an attorney in Houston for the couple, said in a statement to ABC News. "Sadly, in this instance, United Continental clearly did not share that belief and instead chose to humiliate Christopher and Martin by crudely exposing a very personal and private item."
The couple is suing for an unspecified amount in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, negligence, and mental anguish, among other causes.
The alleged incident follows reports of theft and smuggling by baggage handlers at other airports and airlines.
"If the allegation is true, this is obviously just another example in a long history of baggage handler or TSA malfeasance," said George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com, a discount airfare compiler. "The embarrassment and humiliation this caused must have been very painful and if the charges can be substantiated then the couple has every right to sue."
ABC News' Genevieve Shaw Brown contributed to this report.