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BARBIERI v. HARTSDALE POST OFFICE

July 5, 1994

ROBERT BARBIERI, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTSDALE POST OFFICE, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VINCENT L. BRODERICK

 VINCENT L. BRODERICK, U.S.D.J.

 I

 This case presents the difficult problem of how to treat small claims against federal agencies brought by individual citizens who are unaware of legal technicalities. While individual claims such as that here for $ 270.20 are small, in the aggregate the effect of how the United States treats such matters is highly pertinent to how its citizens regard their government. To fail to seek workable means of dealing with small claims that come into the federal courts would be to disregard the fact pointed out by Judge Edward Weinfeld of this court that:

 
Every case is important . . .
 
A case involving a small sum [is] as important to a poor person as a case involving millions of dollars . . . to powerful interests.

 Quoted in Lubasch, Judge Edward Weinfeld, NY Times, Jan 18, 1988 at A16.

 II

 Plaintiff filed a one-page form complaint pro se in the Small Claims Court of the Town of Greenburgh on April 11, 1994 seeking $ 270.20 from the Hartsdale Post Office for "wrongful postmark on letter causing tax penalty."

 While unsupported by factual material at this stage, the claim involved here, a government agency has misdated a document leading to adverse consequences for an individual citizen, is not inherently implausible *fn1" in view of experience with such events. See Cruz v. Sullivan, 802 F. Supp. 1015 (SDNY 1992).

 III

 Plaintiff Robert Barbieri was unaware that the Hartsdale Post Office was not a legal entity and that the United States Postal Service, an agency of the United States of America, was the responsible body. He was also, as far as appears, unaware that a formal administrative claim to the Postal Service under the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 USC 2401[b], 2675) is a prerequisite to pursuing a suit against the United States for negligence.

 Nine days later, on April 20, 1994 the United States filed a notice of removal under 28 USC 1441, and on April 28, 1994 filed a motion to dismiss the removed case on grounds:

 (a) that the sovereign immunity waiver provided by the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 USC 1346(b), is inapplicable because of an exception set forth in 28 USC 2680(b), excluding from the Act any "claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, ...


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