Costly Drafting Errors, Part 2—Cussler Versus Crusader Entertainment

In litigation between author Clive Cussler and Crusader Entertainment over production of the movie (and box-office flop) “Sahara,” a jury recently ordered Cussler to pay Crusader $5 million in damages.

News accounts (including this one) noted that the jury foreman had said that the contract between the two sides played a big part in the deliberations. The foreman found the contract hard to decipher—“It was a nightmare,” he said.

I’d be interested to see the contract. It presumably became a nightmare in one of three ways:

  • The principals reached a comprehensive meeting of the minds and the drafter failed to reflect it in the contract.
  • The principals failed to reach a comprehensive meeting of the minds and the drafter faithfully reflected that failure in the contract.
  • The principals failed to reach a comprehensive meeting of the minds and the drafter failed to reflect in the contract whatever meeting of the minds had been reached, thereby further adding to the confusion.

Whichever scenario applied in this case, the drafter doesn’t come out of it covered with glory. The drafter’s job is to accurately reflect the agreement of the parties. But the drafter’s job is also to give the parties a wake-up call when whatever they think they’ve agreed to doesn’t make sense or doesn’t address all it should.

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.