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New Jersey Court Finds Delivery Person Has No Duty to Warn of Items in Designated Delivery Area

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, has found that a delivery person has no duty to warn business owners or employees when making a delivery to a designated delivery area.

Plaintiff Danielle Fry appealed from two Law Division orders dismissing her personal injury claims against defendants Pepsi, Lakeside Tavern, the tavern's owners, fellow employees, and a soda dispensing company.

In 2007, Fry was employed as a cook at the Lakeside Tavern in Branchville, New Jersey. An employee of a dispensing company delivered 15 canisters of soda and one canister of CO2 to a narrow passage in or near the tavern's kitchen.

When Fry went through the passage, her right kneecap hit the side of one canister, and she fell and sustained injuries. She later sued. Her case was dismissed and she appealed.

On appeal, the court noted that Fry could not make a claim against her employers, even though they were also owners of the tavern building, and that her right to recover for a work-related personal injury was limited to claims under the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act.

Fry contended that the trial court judge erred in finding that the dispensing company employee had no duty of care in making the delivery. She cited the New Jersey case of LaRussa v. Four Points at Sheraton Hotel, in which a deliveryman tracked in melting snow onto the floor of a hotel kitchen, creating a five-foot wide puddle in which an employee slipped and fell.

In LaRussa, the appeal turned on whether the deliveryman owed a duty of care to notify the hotel of the potential hazard created by the puddle. The court held that:

"The scope of the duty is determined by the totality of the circumstances. Factors used to determine the scope of a duty include the risk of harm and practicality of preventing it, and where the relevant behavior is easy to correct and the consequential harm serious, it is fair to impose a duty. We acknowledge that delivery persons will track in snow or water when the weather conditions are "icy, snowy, [and] rainy." We recognize as well that slips and falls may occur on even the smallest amount of water or other debris, but when the accumulation of water approximates five feet in area, the duty of notification is neither burdensome nor unreasonable recognizing the danger involved and the probability of a fall. Balancing the factors enunciated by the Court... we conclude that the delivery person had a duty to notify the hotel of the obvious danger caused by his activities."

Comparing the LaRussa case to the Fry case, the court found that the risk that someone would slip on a five-foot puddle was both serious and foreseeable. However, the deliveryman in the Fry case had only placed the canisters closer to the refrigerator than usual and made the passageway narrower than usual, but there was no general duty for a deliveryman to notify business owners and employees that a delivery had been made.

Compared to a large pool of water, which is both unexpected and difficult to see, the canisters were in the general location expected and were not a bidden hazard.

If you or a family member have suffered an injury as the result of a New Jersey accident, contact the New Jersey accident and personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC. 

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