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Q: U.S. Postal service liability ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: U.S. Postal service liability
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: workhorse12-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 27 Nov 2006 09:36 PST
Expires: 27 Dec 2006 09:36 PST
Question ID: 785952
Can the U. S. Postal Service be held liable if one of their employees
opens another person's mail, inserts a note, tapes the envelope shut
and then has it delivered?
Subject: Re: U.S. Postal service liability
Answered By: hummer-ga on 27 Nov 2006 11:06 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi workhorse12,

Yes, you do have have recourse if your letter was opened
("unauthorized opening") and your first step should be to contact the
PCSC and District Business Mail Entry Offices for advice on how to

Domestic Mail Manual
5.0 Private Express Statutes
5.1.1 Legal Foundation
By the laws known as the Private Express Statutes, Congress has
generally conferred on the USPS the exclusive right to carry letters
for others over post routes. USPS regulations under the Private
Express Statutes are in the Code of Federal Regulations, 39 CFR 310
and 320, as amended by final rules published in the Federal Register.
These regulations take precedence over all prior rulings and USPS
publications. Copies of the regulations are available from the manager
of the Pricing and Classification Service Center (PCSC) (see 8.4 for
5.1.2 Definition of a Letter for Private Express
For the Private Express Statutes, a letter is a message directed to a
specific person or address and recorded in or on a tangible object. A
message consists of any information or intelligence that can be
recorded on tangible objects including, but not limited to, paper in
sheet or card form, recording disks, and magnetic tapes. Certain
matter is excluded from the definition of letter, e.g.: telegrams;
checks and certain other instruments shipped to, from, or between
financial institutions; newspapers; and periodicals. The regulations
detail exclusions.
5.1.5 Violations of Private Express Statutes
The PCSC reviews initial reports of possible violations of the Private
Express Statutes. When warranted by the facts, possible violations are
forwarded to the USPS General Counsel for further action.
5.1.6 Legal Advice for Private Express
The public and USPS employees can obtain authoritative advice on the
Private Express Statutes, including written advisory opinions, by
contacting the Senior Counsel, Ethics and Information, USPS
Headquarters (see 8.4 for address and telephone number).

8.4 PCSC and District Business Mail Entry Offices Contact Information

Alternately, you can contact the USPS Consumer Advocate (or even go
directly to the post office), but for myself, I believe your initial
enquiry should be as stated above.

Domestic Mail Manual
6.0 Complaints and Postal Law Violations
6.1 Consumer Complaints and Inquiries
"Any postal customer may complain or inquire about postal products,
services, or employees at any post office or directly to the USPS
Consumer Advocate (see 8.1 for address). A complaint or inquiry may be
made in person, by telephone, by e-mail, or by letter. A complaint or
inquiry about the handling of a specific piece of mail should include
the related envelope or wrapper and copies of all postal forms filed.
A customer who is dissatisfied with the local handling of a complaint
or inquiry may send a written appeal to the Consumer Advocate. A court
of law can require such appeal as a legal prerequisite for hearing a
customer's suit against the USPS.
6.2 Postal Law Violations
Instructions on mail security as it relates to unauthorized opening,
inspection, tampering, or delay of mail are in Administrative Support
Manual 274. Information and complaints on a possible postal law
violation must be sent to the appropriate address according to the ZIP
Code ranges shown below:
see: ZIP Codes - Address

Consumer Advocate
US Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plz SW
Washington DC 20260-2200

I was glad to work on this for you, it's quite interesting. If you
have any questions, please post a clarification request and wait for
me to respond before closing/rating my answer.

Thank you and good luck!

Search Strategy:
I searched the USPS DMM for basic standards.

Request for Answer Clarification by workhorse12-ga on 28 Nov 2006 09:58 PST
This might qualify as a second question.  Which takes priority, the
addressee or the address?  Thanks

Clarification of Answer by hummer-ga on 28 Nov 2006 13:23 PST
Hi workhorse12,

Postal employees need a search warrant to open private letters, the
letters can be addressed to a specific person or address. "For the
Private Express Statutes, a letter is a message directed to a specific
person or address..". I would say they are both equal, the important
points being that it is private, to someone specific. If addressed to
"occupant", check to see if it was mailed by First Class. Admail would
not be considered a private letter. If it was mailed First Class, it's
worth a call the Office to see what they have to say.

Please let me know if you have any other questions,
workhorse12-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Quick, thorough response.  I'm impressed.

Subject: Re: U.S. Postal service liability
From: hummer-ga on 29 Nov 2006 09:44 PST
Hi workhorse12,

Thank you kindly for your nice note, rating, and tip!  Given that
tomorrow will be the last day that GA will be accepting new questions,
yours is one of my last GA answers. If you haven't heard about it,
here is a link to the announcement: 

Thanks again,

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