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If a seller sent an item to a customer via the postal service, the postal service claims to have left it at the house, and the customer claims it has not been received, who is responsible for the loss? for the shipping cost?

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Bella, I've edited your question per meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/314. Please note that this site makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly rabbinic) advice: treat information from this site like it came from a crowd of your friends. That said, welcome! I hope you stick around and enjoy Mi Yodeya. Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  msh210 Jul 24 '13 at 21:22
    
The postal service should have proof that they dropped it off,and if it didn't need a signature then that is not the postal services problem. –  sam Jul 24 '13 at 23:39
    
You might want to find out from somewhere else with the legal status of ownership is when an item is shipped. –  A L Jul 24 '13 at 23:55
    
The answer to this question may be highly dependent on the nature of the service contract between the seller and the postal service and the legal context in which it was made. That said, it would probably be useful to have an answer that assumes nothing about these and analyzes the question purely based on the Jewish laws of messengers and object-guardians. –  Isaac Moses Jul 25 '13 at 14:25
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1 Answer

From a Halakhic standpoint, there appears to be two questions here:

  1. Who has Halakhic possession, and thus liability, for the item?

    • When does the customer legally possess the item, and thereby becomes responsible for it? Is it upon payment, or upon receipt?
  2. What is the Halakhic status of the postal carrier? Are they a

    • Shaliach (Messenger)?
    • Shomer (Guardian)?
    • Something else?

Regarding #1: If I remember correctly, a buyer only possess an purchased item after he has physically picked it up (kinyan). As such, in this situation, the seller would be responsible for the package. However, see below.

Regarding #2: It appears to me that the postal carrier is most likely a Shomer Sachar, a Paid Guardian. In such case, they are exempt for breakage or accidents, but liable for theft or loss. This package appears to have been lost, and thus, the postal carrier is liable. [Bava Metzia 95]

However, they claim that it was delivered. If one leaves an object in another's yard, the recipient takes possession of it (kinyan chatzer). [Avodah Zarah 71] As such, it would be the buyer's responsibility.

In short, this situation is quite complicated, and would depend on determining exactly what happened, on the contractual obligations of the postal carrier, and on the specifics of the agreement between the buyer and seller (both explicit and implicit) regarding the delivery of the item.

As usual, please ask your Rabbi for practical applications.

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