Judge Tosses Nigerian’s Libel Case Against UPS

     HOUSTON (CN) A federal judge tossed a man’s claim that UPS libeled him by putting “Nigerian Fraud Intercept” on packages he shipped from Houston to his workplace in Nigeria, ruling that the Warsaw Convention entirely preempts his allegations.
     Tunji Aina is a former Hewlett Packard employee who worked for the company in Nigeria.
     While in Houston Aina, with HP’s permission, used the company’s UPS account to ship nine packages of baby-care products to HP’s office in Nigeria for the impending birth of his child.
     At about the same time another HP Nigeria employee used its UPS account to ship several packages of computer equipment to its Nigerian office.
     Each package the men sent bore HP’s shipping account with the shipper address crossed out, and replaced with a Texas address filled in by hand.
     UPS security thought the packages were fraudulent shipments, opened them, notified HP’s Global Security department about the possible scam, and suspended shipment of the packages pending its investigation.
     HP cleared Aina of misconduct in December 2009. On December 23, 2009 UPS delivered the packages to Aina labeled with his name, work address and the words “Nigerian Fraud Intercept.”
     Aina left his job with HP about a month later, and took a higher paying job.
     Aina later sued UPS for breach of contract and libel, and a declaration that he did not have to pay its shipping fees.
     Aina alleged that the “Nigerian Fraud Intercept” label subjected him to an internal investigation by HP that caused him a loss of esteem, and forced him to leave his job. He also claims that due to UPS’ delay he was forced to buy higher-priced baby products because his wife gave birth in October 2009.
     UPS moved to dismiss Aina’s claims, and also filed a counterclaim seeking to collect its unpaid shipping charges from him.
     U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt granted UPS’ motion to dismiss Aina’s claims last Thursday.
     In granting UPS’ motion Hoyt cited the Warsaw Convention which applies to all international carriage of people, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft, and states that any action for damaged or lost cargo can only be brought under conditions and limits set out by the Convention.
     Both Nigeria and the United States are signatories to the Warsaw Convention so the treaty applies in Aina’s case, Hoyt wrote.
     Hoyt also wrote that even if the Warsaw Convention did not apply Aina’s claims still fail as a matter of law.
     UPS’ tariff specifically reserves the right to open and inspect any package given to it for shipment, and its understandable delay in delivering Aina’s packages does not constitute breach of contract, Hoyt wrote.
     As for Aina’s libel claims for the “Nigerian Fraud Intercept” labels UPS placed on his packages, because the packages were indeed intercepted for a fraud investigation UPS was not negligent in placing the contested label on Aina’s packages, Hoyt wrote.
     Hoyt also tossed Aina’s libel claim based on his testimony that he left HP for a job that paid twice as much, and offered insufficient evidence that his reputation suffered at all from UPS’ labels.

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