A painful slip on the U.S. post office floor in Coeur d’Alene led to an embarrassing slip-up a few months later in California.
Or was that Colorado?
On Nov. 14, 1994, Thomas Murty, 46, pulled on his rubber-soled cowboy boots and went to the Coeur d’Alene post office, where he slipped and fell on the linoleum floor.
An unemployed laborer from Post Falls, Murty asked the U.S. Postal Service to pay his $600 in medical bills for injuries to his back and hip.
Sorry, partner, said the feds in a letter dated April 6, cowboy boots “are not proper footwear for the winter season in North Dakota.”
“It’s such a funny letter,” Murty said. “Should I appeal in North Dakota where it’s illegal to wear cowboy boots?”
Rozella Williams, a claims processor for the postal service, said the reference to North Dakota was a simple mistake and not central to the agency’s argument against paying Murty’s bills.
“The weather conditions are bad in North Dakota and Idaho in the winter,” she said. “Foot attire contributed to the fall.”
Murty usually wears cowboy boots, because he finds the high arches comfortable, he said.
Williams is one of eight claims processors in the San Mateo, Calif., office. They handle all the tort claims against the postal service in the nation. Slip-and-fall claims are common. She handles about eight or 10 a week, she said.
“We do these claims constantly,” she said. “I think because we’re the government, they think we make money in the back room here.”
That’s not to say that all claims are denied. Williams recently approved payment for a claim in which the non-slip material had worn off the post office steps.
“If we’re negligent, we pay them,” she said.
In this case, she and Coeur d’Alene Postmaster Ron Carroll contend no water was on the floor inside the building. They concluded that Murty’s slick boots tracked the water in, causing him to slip and fall.
“When you slip and fall, it doesn’t necessarily mean the place you did it in was an unsafe place to be,” Carroll said.
Murty said he would appeal the decision. But first, he said, he’s going to try to sell his story to the National Enquirer.