Soda Delivery an Unusual Hazard? Not in NJ.

Under what circumstances will a delivery person be found to have a duty to notify businesses of hazards when deliveries are made? In a 2003 case, the New Jersey Appellate Division found that a deliveryman who had tracked snow into a hotel kitchen that created a five foot wide puddle had a duty to bring this condition to the hotel’s attention. LaRussa v. Four Points at Sheraton Hotel, 360 N.J.Super. 156 (App.Div. 2003).

 Seeking to expand on this legal theory, a plaintiff, injured when she bumped into soda canisters delivered to the tavern at which she worked, sued the dispensing company. In Fry v. Pepsi Bottling Co., the plaintiff alleged that the delivery person placed the canister in a narrow hallway closer to the refrigerator than usual. When she walked by, her knee cap contacted the canister causing an injury.

 The Appellate Division did not buy the plaintiff’s arguments and affirmed summary judgment for the soda dispensing company. The delivery person had in fact been instructed by the plaintiff’s employer that canister deliveries were to be placed in the hallway. Even if this particular delivery was not in the exact spot of prior deliveries, the minor deviation was not an unusual hazard like the five foot pool of water in LaRussa. Significantly, the court did not find that a deliveryman must notify owners and employees that deliveries have been made in the general area where they were instructed to do so.

For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.