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

The Texas Supreme Court Doesn’t Know from Commas

Yesterday I saw a post on LinkedIn that mentioned Sullivan v. Abraham, a 2016 opinion of the Texas Supreme Court (PDF here). The LinkedIn post mentions that the opinion involved a serial comma, so of course I had to check it out. Unfortunately, this opinion offers another example of a court that’s inept at textual interpretation. As such, it’s worth … Read More

You Too Can Join the PreAmbiguity Department!

Remember the 2002 movie Minority Report? Here’s how Wikipedia describes the premise: In April 2054 Washington, DC’s prototype “PreCrime” police department prevents murders, via three clairvoyant humans (“Precogs”) attached to a computer, who have an innate ability to “previsualize” crimes of extreme emotion and violence, before the offending suspect even begins the fatal deed. Well, you can participate in an … Read More

Hey, Another Fight Over “And”: Spanski Enterprises, Inc. v. Telewizja Polska S.A.

What I call “ambiguity of the part versus the whole”—ambiguity involving whether it’s a single member of a group of two or more that’s being referred to, or the entire group—is annoyingly complicated. Whenever I talk about it, I have to remind myself, and those I’m addressing, that we have no choice but to wrestle with this complexity because people … Read More

A Broader Understanding of “Thinking Like a Linguist”

I noted with interest this item by Howard Bashman about a program at the 2019 Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) Summit entitled “Thinking Like a Linguist.” As Howard describes it, “the program offered an introduction to the field of linguistics and its past and potential future uses in resolving legal disputes.” But it was actually about a narrower topic—corpus linguistics, … Read More