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Stupid Case File for February 26, 2006

Stupid Lawsuits: I tripped over my mail...

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A woman who tripped and fell over letters, packages and periodicals left on her front porch can sue the U.S. Postal Service for damages, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The 7-1 ruling was a victory for Barbara Dolan, who said she suffered wrist and back injuries when she fell in 2001 in front of her Glenside, Pennsylvania, home.

She said postal employees acted negligently by leaving the mail on her porch. No further details were available on the circumstances of her fall.

The justices said a U.S. appeals court had been wrong to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that federal law provided immunity to the Postal Service over lawsuits claiming negligent mail delivery or placement.

In the court's majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected the federal government's argument that Congress in adopting the law must have intended to insulate the Postal Service from liability over delivery-related lawsuits.

The Postal Service delivers about 660 million pieces of mail each day, and government lawyers had raised the specter of frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuits inundating the Postal Service if the high court ruled against it.

But Kennedy rejected that argument and said the risk of lawsuit is shared by any business that makes home deliveries.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the ruling.


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