On July 3rd, 2012 a New Rochelle resident came home from work to his home on Farragut Circle to discover that his car, a red 1991 Toyota, was no longer parked where he had left it but about 30 feet further down the road. The owner of the vehicle was completely mystified.
A security camera installed at the front of the home near the front door provided the answer.
The video shows that the vehicle was rear-ended by a U.S. Post Office delivery van. The postal carrier driving the van struck the parked car and the force of the impact pushed the car forward out of the frame.
According to Post Office sources, the postal carrier drove forward, got out of his vehicle and inspected the Toyota for damage. Post Office policy requires that a postal carrier involved in a collision call back to the office and report the incident. Seeing no significant damage, the postal carrier decided to continue on his route with the intention to report the incident when he got back to the office. He failed to do that was disciplined as a result.
The first the New Rochelle Postmaster heard about the incident was when the New Rochelle police came of the post office after a complaint was made on later that evening. On July 5th, the owner of the vehicle went to make a complaint to the post office and learned that a supervisor had already visited the scene and photographed the red Toyota. That the Postmaster knew about the incident and dispatched a supervisor to the scene to take photographs caused the owner to become upset and the situation devolved from there.
Three months later the incident is still unresolved.
From the vehicle owner’s perspective this is a classic hit-and-run where the postal carrier would have gotten away with it but for the security camera. From the post office perspective, this is a case where an otherwise responsible postal carrier made a mistake.
Neither side is disputing that the U.S. Postal Service is responsible for the damage to the vehicle. There is a dispute as to the extent of the damage and the value of the vehicle. The post office says their photographs do not indicate any significant damage. The owner says there was damage to the rear of the vehicle, the side and the tire rim. The post office wants to settle the case based on the blue book value of the car. The owner of the vehicle claims to have done extensive work restoring the vehicle. He claims to have spent $10,000 on the vehicle including a new engine which is much newer than the odometer indicates. He says the vehicle is worth far more than the book value.
In emails and letters provided by the owner to Talk of the Sound, it is clear there has been a good deal of back and forth between the two sides. The root of the problem appears to be an initial distrust of the post office by the owner based on the failure of the post office to immediately report the incident to the office and take steps to inform the owner of the collision before they discovered the cause on their own. It also sounds that the local office of the USPS did not manage the initial response well. It was later escalated to the Torts Claims Coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service for the Westchester District who appears to have made a good faith effort to settle the claim.
The problem is that by the time the case was escalated to Carmen Castiglia, the Torts Claims Coordinator, the owner of the vehicle no longer trusted the USPS to act in good faith. Requests to inspect the Toyota or submit repair estimates took on a sinister overtone as the owner came to believe that the U.S. Postal Service was engaged in tactics intended to discourage the owner from pursuing damages claims. While the emails from the Westchester Torts Claims Coordinator was professional and clearly indicate a desire to settle the case, they came in the context of an already deteriorating situation at the local level.
Had the postal carrier followed protocol this matter could have been quickly settled. He was disciplined by the USPS, according to knowledgeable sources.
The owner of the red Toyota still wants the postal carrier to be interviewed by the New Rochelle Police Department.
In her email replies, Castiglia makes clear that the U.S. Postal Service will not provide the identify of the driver as USPS employees are covered in “the scope of employment” for any accident by the Postal Service.
At this point, the matter has been referred to the USPS legal office in St. Louis, MO which will likely make a settlement offer given the video tape evidence in the case.