Lost Ashes: How UPS May Have Turned a Bailment Case into a Defamation Case

In Georgia, Rachelle McIntosh has accused UPS of losing her mother’s ashes, which she mailed to New Jersey because she was unable to take the urn on the plane with her. The box arrived in New Jersey without the urn. However, the local UPS dealer accused McInstosh of staging the event to collect the $1,000 in insurance that she purchased. He may have succeeded into turning a bailment case into a defamation.

Usually, shippers are confined to bailment rules and contractual liability, as in this case with $1000. This sets up a conflict with common law rules whichhave always given the treatment of corpses and remains special protection. Moreover, the loss of a body or ashes is an excellent basis for alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress if the other elements are satisfied of being a close family relatives and within the vicinity of a tort. Nevertheless, before the local manager spoke, UPS would have a colorable claim of a maximum $1000 penalty. For the full story, click here

The suggestion of a criminal fraud constitutes common law slander. While truth is a defense, UPS would need to show that McIntosh carried out such a plan. If the statement was broadcast, most states would likely treat the statement as libel. In either case, the manager is probably a better shipper than lawyer.