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Are there consequences for not reading my mail?

Are there consequences for not reading my mail?

27 September 2018

Answer: Yes, and serious ones.

Some people stick their head in the sand and do not open their mail regularly or are selective in what mail they open.  These are not wise practices.  Some may think these practices are safe or even better for them.  They may believe the idea that if they do not know something, that they cannot be responsible for it.  That may be the case in terms of proving criminal intent, at times, (and if the person is believed), but for the overwhelming majority of instances, they will be held accountable for the information conveyed in the letter, despite the fact they may not have opened their mail.

First off, the practical; you convey you are irresponsible and unorganized to anyone listening.  Second, you convey that you are not worthy of the extra effort you typically will enlist when you need to make a deadline, or make up for missing a deadline, because you do not read your mail.  Third and moving to the legal, typically people have a hard-enough time getting prepared for deadlines, etc. when they have notice in a timely manner, but if you do not open your mail, that becomes all the more difficult.  Lastly, based on the author’s experience, using the excuse that you did not know something because you did not read your mail is not a sufficient legal excuse.  Simply put, there is almost always no legal benefit to not reading your mail, and frankly, it is reckless; do not do it.

If you have doubts, the author suggests that you ask the debtor in a recent bankruptcy case titled In re Francis whether there can be consequences to not reading your mail.  In re Francis, US Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, Case No. 17-12708-FJB (order dated 25 Sept. 2018) .  In In re Francis, the bankruptcy court took it upon itself to set a show cause hearing for the debtor to show why he should not be denied his discharge for failing to obey court orders.  At the hearing, the debtor’s excuse was, you guessed it, he meant to comply but he “does not look at his mail.”  Id.  The court did not have pity, rather it found “avoidance of court mailings constitutes a willful refusal to comply” and cited another legal opinion as a basis.  Id.  The bankruptcy court would not let its orders be ignored because the debtor did not open his mail.  If you think of it, how could a society operate if we let people not be held responsible for the information conveyed in the mail, in other words, we let people not read their mail without consequence?

Understand that this is not an isolated event stemming from the opinion of one judge in a bankruptcy forum in Massachusetts.  It is the author’s experience and opinion, that in every legal corner and venue of the United States, it is the rule that a person is responsible for what is conveyed to them in the mail they receive, absent proving criminal and possibly other types of intent.

It is the considered suggestion of the author to read your mail, read it in a timely manner, and take action to obtain counsel if needed very quickly (because how damaging it can be for delaying in obtaining legal counsel is another problem you should seek to avoid).