How can we get my son’s belongings from his former employer in a different state?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How can we get my son’s belongings from his former employer in a different state?

My son worked for a boatyard in FL. As part of his pay they provided a place to live in the yard. When they fired him, they gave him time to pack his belongings and initially said they’d get the boxes to a UPS store so I could have them shipped COD to CO. They never did. They took him to the airport with a plane ticket and dropped him there. Not giving him a chance to ship the boxes himself. He had no transportation to do anything but wait for his plane. By the way, the boatyard is owned by family. We have asked numerous times for his belongings and they refuse to do anything. I’m afraid they are going to throw them away. It’s at least $500 worth of clothes and other stuff. What are our options?

Asked on July 20, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You don't have any good options. You'd have to sue for the value of the items, which lawsuit could be settled or resolved by them returning his possessions. But to sue in small claims court, you'd have to sue where they are (the FL county where the boatyard is located), since small claims court is a court of limited local jurisdiction--and the cost of doing so (since your son would have to fly there for the trial, if the case did not settle) would be more than the value of his items. Or he might be able to sue in "regular" county court where he lives (but not definitely: while "regular" court does have power over defendants in other states, there must be a sufficient connection between the court, the act, and the defendant as to justify a court exercising power over a distant defendant, and the court might conclude that in this case, the connection is insufficient), but the cost and complexity of suing in "regular" (not small claims) court is much higher; he might again find that he's spending more than it is worth. There is simply no good way to sue across state lines for $500 or so.

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