Local woman sues UPS over damaged family heirlooms

Posted at 10:37 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 23:47:03-04
Imagine sending priceless family heirlooms to a relative out of state only to have them arrive in pieces. That's exactly what happened to one local woman. Then she discovered the additional coverage she purchased really isn't insurance.
The I-Team discovered if anything happens to that package you shipped, the insurance you bought for a few extra bucks might not give you the coverage you expect.  Susan Bornstein-Forst found that out the hard way and wants people to know the term "insurance" is being mis-used.
A monogrammed serving tray from Japan was one of the items in the boxes Susan shipped to her sister.  She told us, "that was completely destroyed. That could not be restored."  Susan also said everything she sent was broken.
Most of the contents are family heirlooms her father acquired during his service in the Army.  After her mother died last year, Susan boxed up the family's collection of fine art, "I had no reason to believe that something that was properly packed would suffer."
A hand-painted silk Japanese scroll was slashed, the glass shattered.  Even the frame broke.  "The silk was irreparably damaged on that," Susan pointed out.
A portrait of her mother survived, but its museum quality frame from the 1930's did not.  It was broken in several places, "almost like it was smashed against a brick wall," Susan said.
Everything in all four boxes shipped was damaged.  Susan sent them through UPS and says the manager who helped her even used extra fragile stickers.  "I'm sending this box feeling assured that it's going to arrive in one piece, because that's what I'm paying for."
According to Susan she was asked if she wanted to "take out additional insurance."  So Susan bought extra coverage, "it wasn't explained to me that there is no insurance."  Susan actually paid for declared value coverage, meaning you state the value of the contents.  Susan told us, "the company would not be responsible for more than that."
We went to the UPS website and found this explanation under terms and conditions. "...if the value is more than $100.." the shipper "..does not receive any form of insurance."  UPS also states if the shipper wants "all risk insurance" they should purchase it from a third party.
The I-Team wanted to see how employees referred to declared value coverage, so we sent our photographer and producer, undercover, to mail boxes from different area UPS stores.  One employee asked "do you need additional insurance?"  To get a better explanation of what that actually covered we had to ask some questions.  Then we were told, "whatever you declare that's what it would cover."  At another location we requested extra coverage. The employee called it "insurance" and told us, "insurance really would be for loss."
After Susan filed claims, UPS paid less than a $1,000.  Not enough, she told us, to even cover her shipping costs and the company's own liability for damages.  And Susan felt UPS had a bigger responsibility, "the restoration of the pieces, to the extent that they could be restored, was costly."  So Susan took UPS to small claims court and won.  According to court documents the company was ordered to pay her $5,000.
The I-Team visited three UPS stores undercover. Two used the term "insurance" instead of "declared value coverage."  The third did not offer us any additional coverage.
We reached out to UPS; the company told us it recommends UPS store owners, "train associates to ask customers if they would like to declare a value on their package.  We specifically ask that they do not refer to the service as insurance."
We also checked with Fed Ex about buying additional coverage.  It operates the same way, asking customers to declare a value.
Bottom line, know the value of what you're shipping so you have the right amount of coverage if something happens.
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