The Syntactic Ambiguity Lurking in the Name of a Flavor of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

You know you’re suitably paranoid about the potential for confusion in contract language if you spot instances of that sort of confusion in your everyday life. Yesterday I was in urgent need of ice-cream therapy, so I got me a pint of the Ben & Jerry’s flavor (previously unknown to me) called “Salted Caramel Brownie.” Here’s the fine-print description: Vanilla … Read More

What We Talk About When We Talk About Ambiguity

It’s best to understand what we mean when we say contract language is ambiguous. For linguists, text is ambiguous if it’s capable of expressing two or more inconsistent meanings. If some who read a contract provision think it means one thing and others think it means something else, that provision is ambiguous. Because ambiguity creates confusion and causes many contract … Read More

Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc.: The Delaware Court of Chancery Considers an Ambiguous “And”

I noted with interest Vice Chancellor Glasscock’s opinion in Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc., decided today (PDF here). Here’s the language at issue: The Converted Units shall be subject to the right of repurchase (the “Call Right”) exercisable by Parent, a member of the Sponsor Group, or one of their respective Affiliates, as determined by Parent in its sole discretion, during … Read More

ECB USA, Inc. v. Chubb Insurance Co. of New Jersey: More Comma Sadness

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you’d have to look far and wide to find a judge who has a clue about commas. Thanks to the opinion in ECB USA, Inc. v. Chubb Insurance Co. of New Jersey, No. 20-20569-CIV, 2021 WL 5989230 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 17, 2021) (PDF here), we have further reason for despair in that … Read More

Once Again, Delimiting Commas in Coordination

In this July 2020 post I discussed a feature I called “delimiting commas in coordination.” It’s a subtle topic, and over time I realized that my post wasn’t as clear as it might be. So now I permit myself take two *** This post considers a feature of comma use that might not be clear enough to rely on to … Read More

The New York Appellate Division Finds Ambiguity Where There Is None

Thanks to a tip from @NY_Contracts, here’s yet another story of a court failing at textual interpretation. The opinion in question is Dan’s Hauling & Demo, Inc. v. GMMM Hickling, LLC, No. 1068, 2021 WL 1711512 (N.Y. App. Div. 30 Apr. 2021) (PDF here). It’s from the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division, New York State’s intermediate appellate court. The plaintiff … Read More

In the Delaware Chancery Court, a Cautionary Tale on Consent-to-Jurisdiction Provisions and the Perils of Redundancy

In NB Alternatives Advisers LLC v. VAT Master Corp. (Del. Ch. 22 Apr. 2021) (PDF here), the defendants wanted to litigate a matter in Wisconsin; the plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction. On an expedited basis, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the injunction. Hall-of-fame tipster Glenn West then told me about it, so on an expedited basis, here we go. … Read More

The U.S. Supreme Court Fails a Syntactic-Ambiguity Test

Drafters can learn three things from courts screwing up analysis of ambiguity. First, you learn what ambiguous text looks like. Second, you learn that fights over ambiguous contract language are messy and expensive. And third, you learn that too many courts are incapable of analyzing ambiguous contract language in a way that makes sense; see this 2020 blog post for … Read More