Suppose the following were to happen. I've got a package on my desk. I am planning to send it to person A with intent to give them ownership of it. Instead, by mistake, I send it to person B.

Is it still my property? Obviously I can ask for it back - but if I ask after the package has been received, and person B refuses to send it back, do I have legal recourse? Or, alternatively, does person A have legal recourse against person B?

Next, would the situation change if I gave person B advance notice (e.g. send an expedited letter that arrives before the package does, or a phone call) that they are not the intended recipient for the package?

1 Answer 1


I would think that this would be treated the same as lost property. In most places, if you notice lost property (for example because the postman hands it to you) you have the choice of ignoring it (don't touch it, don't accept it from the postman), or you have to make reasonable efforts to find the owner and return it.

If you as the sender had no idea who received the package so you cannot contact them, and there was nothing in the package identifying the sender, the receiver would be able to keep the package when their efforts of finding the owner fail. But if you manage to contact them, then the receiver knows the owner, so there is no legal excuse to keep the package.

  • What happens if you contact the recipient but they do not believe you? E.g. they might believe that you are a third party trying to scam them out of a gift that someone else sent them, or maybe they conclude that you originally intended to give them the item but are now trying to change your mind. Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 22:34
  • They would have kept the item, not only not attempting to find the owner, but actively refusing to return the package to the owner, which in most US states and in many other countries is theft.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 12:40

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