The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) to pay compensation of Rs5 lakh to a Bangalore resident for the last-moment cancellation of a shipment containing body parts of his deceased son, which were being sent to USA for research purposes.
The commission, on January 16, severely criticised the conduct of the international courier company for cancelling the shipment at the eleventh hour, which resulted in destruction of the diagnostic material.
K Venkata Rao had decided to despatch the organs of his 17-year-old deceased son, Om Prakash, in order to find out the cause of his death. The boy was suffering from a neurological disorder. FedEx officials agreed in the first instance, but denied his request at the last minute.
After the episode, Rao approached the Kerala State Consumer Commission, alleging deficiency in service on the part of FedEx, and sought compensation of Rs9.75 lakh.
He had moved the National Commission after the state commission dismissed his plea and ordered him to pay costs to the company.
FedEx took a stand before the national commission that the body parts could not have been dispatched in contravention of a specific legislation which categorised the shipment as "organs and dangerous goods."
The national commission, however, noted that it was too late in the day for them to advance the plea of legal impediments after having entertained the request for shipment, making the customer pack and repack the organs with dry ice and even getting customs clearance obtained through him.
"The fact that a larger consignment of organs of the deceased was transshipped to the same destination by another courier without any hitch exposes the fallacy of the stand taken by the respondents," the National Commission observed.
The commission concluded that FedEx's action amounted to gross deficiency.
The commission held: "No amount of money can suitably compensate the complainant for the kind of loss and injury suffered by him and it is almost impossible to quantify the same," and ultimately fixed an amount of Rs5 lakh as a lumpsum compensation.