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Can I Sue the Post Office?

Perhaps. It really depends on the facts of your case. Here's why: In the United States, like most all countries, we have the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity protects the federal government (state and local too to some capacity) from being sued, unless the government expressly waives the immunity. Generally speaking, we want some extra protection for the government. Mistakes are naturally going to be made, as we are a society of humans. So, rather than allow all mistakes causing damages to provide a cause of action against the government, we instead have the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and then we have various exceptions to the doctrine. In those exeptions, the government is deemed to have waived the immunity and thereby has become liable for damages.

Why would the government waive the immunity? Remember, we are not a dictatorial society. We are a government by the people and for the people, so we have laws for the people's best interest. One such law, the Federal Tort Claims Act, holds the United States immune from suits alleging negligent delivery of the mail.

The U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts recently restated the law on point: "Although the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) expressly permits individuals to sue the government “for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment” (28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)), the FTCA also carefully circumscribes its waiver of the sovereign immunity by carving out many statutory exceptions to the waiver. Id. These exceptions to the waiver of sovereign immunity include, “[a]ny claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(b). Thus, the United States is immune from suits alleging negligent delivery of the mail." Alves v. United States Postal Service, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 02-264-13) (11 pages) (Sorokin, Ch. U.S.M.J.) (Civil Action No. 12-12152-LTS) (May 31, 2013).

Unfortunately, David Alves, a Taunton resident, learned this the hard way. As the opinion states, back in January 2011, Alves became the victim of an error in police and postal work that resulted in his being charged with federal drug charges and being held in custody for three months. Prior to that time, Inspector Kehoe of the U.S. Postal Service had information and belief that a package contained marijuana. He obtained a search warrant for the package and, in cooperation with Massachusetts State Police, a warrant was issued for the search of the package and arrest of whoever accepted it upon delivery. Unfortunately for Mr. Alves, the warrant had the wrong address on it (in addition to the correct address) and when the inspector was unable to deliver the package to the address provided, he tried delivering it to a neighbor. David Alves was one such neighbor. Inspector Kehoe asked him if he was expecting a package. He said that he was. He was then arrested, charged, and held for the next three months. So much for being neighborly.

The charges were eventually dropped and the case was dismissed. He was released. He then hired an attorney and sued the USPS and Inspector Kehoe. That case was then dismissed based upon the protections of sovereign immunity.

Why? Because, although David Alves was forced through an extensive ordeal which deprived him of his freedom for three months and caused injury to his reputation, his damages were due to a mistake and not as a result of the Post Office's of Kehoe's intent to put him falsely behind bars. If Inspector Kehoe had walked up to the house and needlessly kicked over his plants, thrown a brick through his car window, and then punched him in the face without any provocation, Alves would have a meritorious case. Unfortunately for him, the law is not designed to redress all injuries.

Complicated, isnt't it? All the more reason to speak with a competent injury attorney to size up your case. If you've been injured, call our office at 866-995-6663 and speak with a Boston Personal Injury Attorney today for free.

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