A-62632, SEPTEMBER 12, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 199

A-62632: Sep 12, 1935

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IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF IMPROPER DELIVERY BY A POSTAL EMPLOYEE. WAS DELIVERED TO DARIO SANCHEZ. THE TWELVE-YEAR OLD SON OF THE ADDRESSEE WHO IS ALLEGED TO HAVE LOST THE LETTER ON HIS WAY HOME. THE CLAIM BASED ON THE WRONG DELIVERY OF THE LETTER WAS CERTIFIED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE. THIS CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED BY THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT DIVISION ON THE GROUND THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAD FULFILLED ITS OBLIGATION WHEN IT TRANSPORTED THE LETTER FROM LOS ANGELES TO HUNGERFORD AND SHOULD NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR THE WRONG DELIVERY AND EVENTUAL LOSS OF THE LETTER. IT WILL BE NOTED THAT THE POSTMASTER GENERAL WAS GIVEN AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE RULES UNDER WHICH THE SENDERS OR OWNERS OF ANY REGISTERED MATTER MIGHT BE INDEMNIFIED.

A-62632, SEPTEMBER 12, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 199

POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT - INDEMNITY FOR LOSS OF REGISTERED MAIL WHERE THE LOSS OF A LETTER, CONTAINING CURRENCY, REGISTERED WITHOUT WILLFUL DESIGN IN AN AMOUNT LESS THAN CONTAINED IN THE LETTER, IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF IMPROPER DELIVERY BY A POSTAL EMPLOYEE, A CLAIM FOR INDEMNITY MAY NOT BE ALLOWED FOR FULL VALUE, BUT ONLY IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED THE VALUE DECLARED AT THE TIME OF MAILING.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, SEPTEMBER 12, 1935:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED YOUR UNDATED LETTER RECEIVED IN THIS OFFICE ON JUNE 5, 1935, AS FOLLOWS:

A REGISTERED LETTER CONTAINING $25.00 IN CURRENCY MAILED BY D. R. SANCHEZ AT LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, ON JULY 9, 1934, ADDRESSED TO MRS. D. R. SANCHEZ, HUNGERFORD, TEXAS, WAS DELIVERED TO DARIO SANCHEZ, JR., THE TWELVE-YEAR OLD SON OF THE ADDRESSEE WHO IS ALLEGED TO HAVE LOST THE LETTER ON HIS WAY HOME. INASMUCH AS IT APPEARED THAT THE PROPER FEE HAD BEEN PAID IN THE REGISTRATION OF THE LETTER, TO INSURE THE FULL VALUE OF ITS CONTENTS, THE CLAIM BASED ON THE WRONG DELIVERY OF THE LETTER WAS CERTIFIED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT DIVISION FOR PAYMENT IN THE AMOUNT OF $25.00 ON A JOURNAL DATED JANUARY 9, 1935. HOWEVER, THIS CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED BY THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT DIVISION ON THE GROUND THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAD FULFILLED ITS OBLIGATION WHEN IT TRANSPORTED THE LETTER FROM LOS ANGELES TO HUNGERFORD AND SHOULD NOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR THE WRONG DELIVERY AND EVENTUAL LOSS OF THE LETTER.

BY REFERENCE TO THE BASIC LAW SET FORTH IN 39 U.S.C. 381 (A), SUPPLEMENT V, IT WILL BE NOTED THAT THE POSTMASTER GENERAL WAS GIVEN AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE RULES UNDER WHICH THE SENDERS OR OWNERS OF ANY REGISTERED MATTER MIGHT BE INDEMNIFIED. IN PURSUANCE OF THIS AUTHORITY A REGULATION WAS PROMULGATED PROVIDING THAT NO MAIL ADDRESSED TO ANOTHER SHOULD BE DELIVERED TO A MINOR UNLESS AUTHORIZED IN WRITING BY THE ADDRESSEE. (SECTION 1323, PARAGRAPH (F).) SECTION 1326 OF THE POSTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS PROVIDES THAT THE LIABILITY OF THE DEPARTMENT FOR REGISTERED MAIL SHALL CEASE ON ITS DELIVERY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE POSTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS.

SINCE THE DUTY OF THE DEPARTMENT TO THE ADDRESSEE OBVIOUSLY HAD NOT BEEN FULFILLED WHEN THIS LETTER WAS ERRONEOUSLY DELIVERED TO A MINOR, THE DEPARTMENT ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED THE FACT OF WRONG DELIVERY AND CERTIFIED THE CLAIM FOR PAYMENT IN THE SUM OF $25.00. THAT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF POSTAL SERVICE IN SUCH CASES DOES NOT END UNTIL A PROPER DELIVERY HAS BEEN MADE IS BORNE OUT BY A DECISION OF COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY LOVELESS DATED APRIL 16, 1910.

THE REQUEST IS ACCORDINGLY MADE THAT THE ACTION OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT DIVISION IN DISALLOWING THIS CLAIM BE RECONSIDERED AND THAT THE CLAIM BE PAID IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DEPARTMENT'S CERTIFICATION OF JANUARY 9, 1935.

IT APPEARS FROM THE FACTS DEVELOPED IN THIS CASE THAT THE DELIVERY OF THE REGISTERED LETTER WAS TO A MINOR AND WITHOUT WRITTEN AUTHORITY FROM THE ADDRESSEE AND THAT THE LOSS WAS THE DIRECT RESULT OF SUCH IMPROPER DELIVERY. ACCORDINGLY, THE CLAIMANT IS ENTITLED TO INDEMNITY THE SAME AS THOUGH THE LOSS HAD OCCURRED BEFORE THE UNAUTHORIZED DELIVERY.

WHILE THE CLAIM WAS ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED FOR $25, IT BEING STATED BY THE MAILER OF THE LETTER THAT TWO $10 BILLS AND ONE $5 BILL WERE INCLOSED THEREIN AND LOST AFTER BEING DELIVERED TO THE MINOR SON OF THE ADDRESSEE, THE DECLARED VALUE OF THE REGISTRY WAS $10, AND THE CLAIMANT, IN VIEW OF HIS MISSTATEMENT OF THE VALUE OF THE CONTENTS OF THE LETTER HAS AGREED TO ACCEPT IN FULL SETTLEMENT OF THE CLAIM THE SUM OF $17.50, OR EVEN $10 IF THE DEPARTMENT BELIEVES HIM ENTITLED TO ONLY THAT AMOUNT BASED ON HIS STATEMENT OF VALUATION. IT APPEARS THAT THE SUM OF $17.50 WAS COLLECTED FROM THE POSTAL EMPLOYEE WHO MADE THE IMPROPER DELIVERY AND IS BEING HELD BY THE DEPARTMENT PENDING FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE CLAIMANT'S RIGHTS IN THE MATTER.

THE ACT OF JUNE 28, 1932, 47 STAT. 339, PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

THE FULL VALUE OF ALL REGISTERED MAIL OR INSURED MAIL TREATED AS REGISTERED MAIL SHALL BE DECLARED BY THE MAILER AT THE TIME OF MAILING UNLESS OTHERWISE PRESCRIBED BY THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, AND ANY CLAIM FOR INDEMNITY IN ANY AMOUNT INVOLVING SUCH MAIL, WHEN THE FULL VALUE KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY WAS NOT STATED AT THE TIME OF MAILING, SHALL BE INVALID.

THE WORD "WILLFULLY" AS USED IN PENAL STATUTES HAS BEEN HELD TO MEAN NOT MERELY VOLUNTARY BUT WITH A BAD PURPOSE. IN FELTON V. UNITED STATES, 96 U.S. 699, 702, THE COURT SAID:

* * * DOING OR OMITTING TO DO A THING KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY, IMPLIES NOT ONLY A KNOWLEDGE OF THE THING, BUT A DETERMINATION WITH A BAD INTENT TO DO IT OR TO OMIT DOING IT. * * *

THE REGISTRY FEE FOR INDEMNITY EXCEEDING $5 BUT NOT EXCEEDING $25 IS 18 CENTS. ACCORDINGLY THE FEE FOR DECLARED VALUE OF $10 IS THE SAME AS THE FEE FOR DECLARED VALUE OF $25.

IN THE INSTANT CASE IT IS CLEAR THAT THE FULL VALUE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER "KNOWINGLY" WAS NOT DECLARED AT THE TIME OF MAILING; BUT IT APPEARING THAT THE MAILER WAS NOT MOTIVATED BY ANY WRONGFUL INTENT, AND THAT HIS FAILURE TO DECLARE THE FULL VALUE DID NOT DEPRIVE THE GOVERNMENT OF ANY REVENUE PROPERLY DUE, IT CANNOT BE HELD THAT THE ACTION WAS WILLFUL WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE STATUTE. HOWEVER, PAYMENT OF INDEMNITY IN EXCESS OF THE DECLARED VALUE IS NOT AUTHORIZED. ACCORDINGLY, SETTLEMENT WILL ISSUE IN FAVOR OF THE CLAIMANT IN THE AMOUNT OF $10, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.

OF THE AMOUNT COLLECTED FROM THE EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT'S LOSS IN THE MATTER, $10 SHOULD BE DEPOSITED AND COVERED IN AS A MISCELLANEOUS POSTAL RECEIPT AND THE REMAINING $7.50 SHOULD BE RETURNED TO THE EMPLOYEE FROM WHOM COLLECTED.