30/08/16 The Meaning of ‘Personal Delivery’ in a Contract

e-legal lesson

It’s confusing to refer to ‘personal delivery’ in a notices provision in a contract. Does “personal” relate to the person doing the delivering? If so, does it mean that the party giving the notice has to be the one to deliver it, rather than, say, FedEx? After all, one says, “I delivered it personally,” meaning that the speaker was the one who delivered the item in question.
Or does “personal” relate to the recipient? If so, does complying with the provision require that notice be handed to the recipient? What if it’s placed before the recipient? What if the recipient is in the next room? And so on.
The meaning of “deliver it personally” has been at issue in many cases. Once the court decided that the best interpretation was that “personally” referred to the recipient, so that complying with the provision required that notice be handed to the recipient.
To avoid this sort of confusion, don’t use in a contract “personal delivery,” “deliver . . . personally,” or any variant. Instead, provide for delivery to a person at a specified address by specified means (by national transportation company, by registered mail, or otherwise) and specify when notice will be deemed to have been received.