Thoughts on Delivery “By Hand”

In this 2012 blog post I explain why the phrase personal delivery is confusing. My conclusion:

So the moral of this case is, Never say in a contract “deliver X personally,” “by personal delivery,” “personal delivery,” or any variant.

But in this earlier post on the subject, I say this:

Instead, what the phrase “personal delivery” seeks to convey is that a contract party may make its own informal arrangements for delivery rather than delegating the task to a transportation company. I suggest that the phrase “deliver by hand” expresses that meaning more clearly.

But I’m no longer sure about that.

What does delivery by hand mean? The Cambridge English Dictionary says it means “to take something to someone yourself or send it by courier.” What does “yourself” mean when it comes to giving notice? The party (if an individual) or an employee of the party? What about a cousin of an employee of party? And what does courier mean? Is UPS a courier?

So I think by hand is about as unclear as personal delivery. I think by hand and personal delivery are relics of bygone days, when your choice was mail, delivering it yourself, or getting fancy and paying someone to go from point A to point B. The advent of the delivery-industrial complex (FedEx, UPS, Amazon) changed all that. Yet personal delivery and by hand live on in contracts, much like telex, telegram, and facsimile do.

Here’s an alternative approach: One means of delivery is by transportation company delivering a tangible copy using a tracking system, in which case delivery is effective when the tracking system says it has been delivered. Another means is delivery of a tangible copy by any other means (an employee on foot or a bike messenger, say), in which case delivery is effective when someone at the recipient signs for it.

What do you think?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.