Last week, we began to describe what tools or methods a court uses to decide what an agreement says if the parties disagree as to the meaning of a certain word or set of words. Our goal was to explain to laypeople how this task is approached. Today, in what should be a shorter posting, we’ll finish what we started. Click HERE if you want to start at the beginning of this topic.
To recap, the overall goal is to determine what the parties intended at the time of signing. An overriding principal is that parties don’t agree to terms that contradict one another. So, a court (or other decider) is supposed to consider the entire agreement (and contemporaneous, related agreements) when reconstructing what the parties meant when they used a given word or set of words. That makes “context” important. Disputants, when digging in their respective heels, often ignore “context” and convince themselves that they can edit out or ignore things they don’t like when those “things” conflict with their own “certainty” as to what certain words mean. That’s a big mistake. [Read more…]