PRINCETON: Lawsuit claims pizza chain’s 25-minute-delivery rule puts public at risk

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A Princeton University graduate student walking across Washington Road in April was hit by a car driven by a distracted Naked Pizza deliveryman, according to a civil lawsuit that claims the company’s 25-minute-delivery rule and other policies put the public at risk.
Nyssa Emerson suffered spinal cord damage and other injuries that required surgery as a result of Steven G. Cruz hitting her in the crosswalk south of Ivy Lane around 9:30 p.m. on April 8, according to the lawsuit filed Dec.9 in Mercer County Superior Court. In the suit, she alleges that Mr. Cruz went through a red light and that he was driving using a GPS and or some other electronic device.
Named as defendants are Mr. Cruz, 20 years old at the time of the accident; Naked Pizza, headquartered in McLean, Virginia; Kathy Vik, the president and CEO of the now since closed Naked Pizza franchise on Nassau Street; her business NKPNJ Princeton LLC; and Gisela Ayala, Mr. Cruz’s mother and the owner of the Toyota Prius that Mr. Cruz was driving the night of the accident.
Ms. Emerson, 26, missed half a year of school, but she since has returned, said her lawyer, Richard Brockway, by phone Monday.
Her lawsuit faults Naked Pizza for a 25-minute delivery rule and other practices and policies “designed to increase speed of delivery and provided explicit rules, instructions and training to its franchisees, including NKPNJ, Princeton LLC, designed to achieve its singular objective.”
Ms. Emerson claims at NKPNJ Princeton that took the form of enforcing the delivery rule and factoring delivery times into drivers’ evaluations, which also affected bonuses for managers and drivers. Furthermore, she alleged it encouraged “its drivers to increase speed of delivery through financially based competition between drivers which posted results of the fastest delivery times and provided pay incentives to competing drivers based on speed of delivery.”
Finally, she contends it mandated, sanctioned or condoned the use of GPS or other hand-held electronic devices by drivers “to improve delivery times, resulting in dangerous, distracted driving practices in violation of the motor vehicle laws of the state of New Jersey.”
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Cruz was indicted by a Mercer County grand jury on a charge of aggravated assault.