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Rhode Island: The Case of the Shady Drivers
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Rhode Island: The Case of the Shady Drivers

One of the great benefits in tracking insurance across New England is following the stories. Which today brings us to JPL Livery Services, a company with a rather unique contract with the state Department of Health: between 1998 and 2005, they provided transportation for corpses from the location where the death occurred to the medical examiner's office. The drivers had no problem with chatty customers, for sure. JPL received $120 for deliveries within Providence and $125 for deliveries in all other areas of the state.

Unfortunately for JPL, the department decided to save some money by doing the transporting itself, at least during regular business hours. So JPL sued for breach of contract. In the course of the lawsuit, the state discovered that the contract itself was out of date, lacking updated information on the drivers. When criminal background checks were run on the current roster, six of nine drivers showed up with prior convictions. The state immediately terminated the contract; JPL appealed all the way to the RI Supreme Court.

My initial thought was that the issue of criminal records was, if you will pardon the expression, over-kill. After all, the passengers were at no risk of being assaulted by the drivers. But it turns out that some personal items - credit cards and cash - went missing between specific fatal episodes and arrival at the medical examiner's office.  In addition, deliveries occasionally exceeded the one hour specified time limit - not that the passengers themselves filed any complaints.

The Supreme Court ruled that termination of the contract was within the rights of the department. JPL no longer fulfills its morbid role for the state.  We can only assume that it continues to provide livery services, albeit to a significantly more animated clientele.

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