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by Ron Davis
An injury to a delivery person at a New Jersey shopping center has sparked a dispute over who is mostly responsible for paying him for his resulting disability.
The shopping center is located in the east-central New Jersey town of West Long Branch, and a jury first decided that the delivery person must share blame with the shopping centerís owners and the tenant whose store the delivery person was servicing when injured. So the only unresolved issue has been the exact apportionment of the compensation for the injury.
Details of the injury show that it occurred as the delivery person was maneuvering a load of baked goods to the rear door of the tenantís store, a Shop Rite supermarket. That maneuver required getting the goods upon a platform that is level with the rear door. En route to the door, however, the delivery person apparently tripped and fell when he stepped on debris or garbage that was left in the rear-door area.
In suing both the tenant and the shopping centerís owners, the delivery person claimed that they failed to maintain the delivery area in a safe manner.
The lease between the shopping center and the tenant states that the centerís management is responsible for adequate lighting and maintaining sidewalks, aisles, streets, driveways, and service and common areas and keeping them ďunobstructed and in a clean, sanitary condition.Ē
The tenant also has certain responsibilities: ďfor garbage removal...and for cleaning the maintaining the rear loading dock area of the tenantís premises.Ē
A jury found all three parties at fault and apportioned the delivery personís negligence at 44 percent; the tenantís, at 34 percent; and the shopping centerís ownersí, at 22 percent. The delivery person appealed in hopes of shifting some of his 44-percent liability to the shopping centerís owners.
A New Jersey appellate court upheld the jury finding, explaining, ďThe lease clearly indicates that not only was the tenant responsible for the garbage removal, but also for cleaning and maintenance of the rear loading dock area, and thatís because, as the jury no doubt heard, thatís where all of the deliveries occurred.Ē (Langone v. Food-A-Rama, 2005 WL 3691199 [N.J. Super.A.D.])
Decision: January 2006
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