A couple of days ago, I went to my local post office and mailed a large envelope with paperwork inside of it and I had addressed it to me and my home address. The reason I did this was to do a 'poor man's patent' in which I could prove at a later date that I came up with an inventive idea/invention before a certain date.

When I was at the post office I had removed the plastic film from the envelopment to expose the sticky strip and then I closed the envelope and then firmly pushed the flap of the envelope against the body of the envelope and I did this several times to make sure that it was sealed. I then took the envelope to the counter and the post office representative put the postage stamp on it and also put a Certified Mail label on the envelope.

Well, when I removed the envelope from my mail box today, the flap of the envelope was open and there was no Certified Mail label on the envelope. This makes me believe that my envelope was tampered with. The odd thing about it is that when I pushed the open flap back down onto the envelope, waited a minute, and then pulled up on the flap, it was stuck to the envelope and would not budge.

Can I sue the U.S. Post Office for delivering this envelope opened and without a Certified Mail label?

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    Not answer - a poor man's patent is entirely useless. It was always useless but since the U.S. joined the rest of the world in 2012 to become a first-to-file country, establishing when you conceived and when you reduced to practice are no longer relevant - not that mailing it to yourself would prove that anyway. Aug 1, 2019 at 23:29
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    Sue them for what? The value of the envelope or the contents? I doubt you could sue them for the lack of protection you were looking for by the act of mailing as you did - thats not a service the post office provides, its just something you read somewhere and decided to do. You would have a hard time proving deliberate tampering.
    – user4210
    Aug 2, 2019 at 0:35
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    @HRIATEXP post gets damaged from time to time, its the nature of a highly automated process - you certainly have scope to claim for actual damages, but not anything more. Suing isnt the right process for that, filing a claim for a damaged mail item is - usps.com/help/claims.htm
    – user4210
    Aug 2, 2019 at 1:30
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    Mailing an idea to yourself would not constitute "government-certified proof" of anything and, short of publishing your idea, there is no point to having such proof. Sorry for the tangent from your actual question. Aug 2, 2019 at 4:04
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    Practically speaking, I think the most you can realistically expect is a refund of what you paid for the postage - and that's really all the losses you suffered, right? You can get a new envelope and mail the thing again and hopefully all will be well. So if you did sue, you could recover damages of whatever the postage cost, which is what, maybe $10? Surely not worth the effort of going to court. Aug 3, 2019 at 6:05

1 Answer 1



The government enjoys sovereign immunity, meaning that it cannot be sued unless it consents to being sued.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. § 1346) generally permits negligence actions against federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service. But 28 U.S.C. § 2680 carves out an exception for "any claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter."

The Supreme Court looked at that exception in 2006 and concluded that it covers cases where "mail either fails to arrive at all or arrives late, in damaged condition, or at the wrong address." Dolan v. Postal Service, 546 U.S. 481 (2006).

Your situation seems to fall pretty squarely in that description. Upon request, a court would dismiss it almost immediately.

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