US Supreme Court Hears Personal Injury Case Against Postal Service

US Supreme Court Hears Personal Injury Case Against Postal Service

The US Supreme Court is hearing the unusual personal injury claim by a Pennsylvania woman that could ultimately change the way government liability in this country is handled.

The case is over whether or not the woman, Barbara Dolan, can sue the US Postal Service over injuries she sustained when her mail was placed on her porch instead of her mailbox.  Dolan slipped and fell when she went to retrieve her mail.  She suffered wrist and back injuries and sought to sue the US Postal Service.

The federal law, however, prevents people from suing the Postal Service for the “loss, miscarriage or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter.”  Congress passed this caveat in an effort to not have lawsuits potentially disrupt the mail service.

Dolan’s case, according to her lawyer James Radmore, revolves not around negligent transmission but around Dolan’s injuries sustained from that negligent transmission.  Justice Stephen Breyer asked the government’s defense attorney if a postal worker strapped on skis to their vehicle and went around ramming people could they be sued.  Patricia Millet, the government attorney, answered that according to current law they could not be sued.

A citizen or entity cannot sue the federal government unless a special hearing is first held and a judge approves the motion.  Federal courts in Pennsylvania and New York rejected Dolan’s case before the US Supreme Court agreed to hear it.

The most recent statements from the court express serious doubt about whether the laws can protect the Postal Service in cases such as this one.  The case is expected to be decided by July of 2006 and could affect the nature of personal injury cases against the government in the US forever.


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