How Would You Have Drafted It?

Via this post on the California Corporate & Securities Law blog, which is maintained by Keith Paul Bishop of Allen Matkins, I learned of the recent Ninth Circuit opinion in WPP Luxembourg Gamma Three Sarl v. Spot Runner, Inc. (go here for a PDF copy). This dispute involved a second amended and restated right of first refusal and co–sale agreement—what … Read More

Ambiguous or Not? You Too Can Play!

It’s pretty easy to find instances of a court offering a shaky analysis of ambiguity. I recently submitted to a periodical an article about a head-scratching instance of such misdiagnosis—let’s see if it’s accepted. In the interim, you might want to check out “Ambiguous Drafting and the 12-Pound Cat,” by Jeffrey S. Ammon, a member in the Grand Rapids, Michigan … Read More

Misdiagnosing Uncertainty in Contract Language

I recently learned of a Wisconsin appellate case, Appleton Papers, Inc. v. Andritz, Inc., 2011 WL 867754 (Wis. Ct. App.) It provides an interesting example of the confusion that can follow if you misdiagnose the sources of uncertainty in contract language. The defendant, Andritz, had granted the plaintiff an option to purchase equipment, then had refused to sell at the … Read More

Talk of Commas at a Chrysler Bankruptcy Hearing

From Eoin O’Dell’s roundup of comma-related mischief on I learned of a dispute that surfaced at a Chrysler bankruptcy hearing earlier in July. In June 2009, Fiat and the new Chrysler Group LLC agreed to honor all the rights consumers had against the “Old Chrysler” under state “lemon laws.” The agreement was contained in a bankruptcy court judge’s order, but … Read More

“In Each Case” and Disambiguation

A chapter of MSCD is devoted to syntactic ambiguity, in other words uncertainty over which part of a sentence a given word or phrase modifies. One source of syntactic ambiguity is closing modifiers. MSCD discusses how to avoid ambiguity caused by closing modifiers, but it doesn’t discuss in each case (or the wordier in each such case). That’s what I’ll … Read More

Using Parentheses in Contracts

A couple of months ago, reader Kent asked me what I thought about using parentheses in contracts. Here, belatedly, is my answer: In regular prose, parentheses (namely round brackets, like those enclosing these words) are used to offset text that constitutes an explanation or aside. The limited and stylized prose of contracts is generally not the place for explanations and … Read More

Sources of Uncertainty in Contract Language

[Updated 9 March 2021: This post has been superseded by my article Know Your Enemy: Sources of Uncertain Meaning in Contracts, Michigan Bar Journal (Oct. 2016) (here).] [I was prompted to write this post after consulting, over the past few months, dozens of cases ostensibly involving ambiguity but in fact dealing with a range of other problems. I plan on … Read More

Costly Drafting Errors, Part 3—United Rentals Versus Cerberus

A reference on Ideoblog to “sloppy drafting” lead me to take a closer look at the litigation between equipment-rental company United Rentals Inc. (“URI”) and the Cerberus Partners acquisition vehicles RAM Holdings, Inc. and RAM Acquisition Corp. URI sued the RAM entities for having bailed on a $4 billion deal to acquire URI. The RAM entities claimed that URI couldn’t force … Read More

“On the One Hand … On the Other Hand”

Once more, I doff my cap to a reader of this blog. Steve Pappas—a Penn Law classmate—suggested to me that the construction on the one hand … on the other hand is often misused. It had never crossed my mind to investigate this usage. I’ve now done so, and I agree with Steve. The construction on the one hand … … Read More

Contract Language and Layout—Ten Dos and Don’ts

Given that I’ve been blogging for a year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to pull together in this post, in the form of “dos” and “don’ts,” some components of my online presence. The coverage is necessarily patchy, but it’s safe to say that in the past year I’ve been able to write about the issues that I feel most … Read More