Look At The Venue Language In Your Agreements

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After punishing loyal readers over the last two weeks with a two-part, 4,704-word exploration of rice, Oriental cuisine, and (yes) tenant exclusives, we will now retreat to a relatively simple, unconvoluted posting. It will be short. But, wise readers will want to look at a few sentences buried inside the boilerplate of their form agreements – leases, guarantees, and so forth.

There may be a state courthouse in every county throughout the United States, but that’s not true about federal courthouses. [We’re not even sure that every U.S. County has its own courthouse. That’s something that requires “local” knowledge.] But, you don’t have to have a courthouse in your county to be subject to a federal court’s jurisdiction. There is something called, “venue.” That’s the county or district housing the courthouse where criminal or civil cases must be heard. Courthouses are “venued” in a particular location even though they can have jurisdiction over a much larger area than just their county of venue. The trick is that the boundaries of a “district” and that of a “county” are not the same. With perhaps a very small number of exceptions (known to some readers located in those places), a federal court’s “district” encompasses a number of counties (in Louisiana, “parishes”). For example, New Jersey has one Federal “District,” the “District of New Jersey,” but it effectively has three (lower case) “districts” with courthouses in Camden, Newark, and Trenton. California and New York each have four (upper case) “Districts,” but a lot more courthouses. For example, in New York, there are 11 federal courthouses. [Read more…]

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Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None – Avoiding Hubris

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Several Ruminations blog posts over the years have posited that many of us, this writer included, don’t listen very well to what the person on the other end of the deal is actually saying. We already know what we think we ought to know and, certainly, that person, a/k/a “our adversary,” is only seeking an advantage over us. We don’t even play a purely intellectual game by taking the other side’s “position” in our head and rolling it over (and over). We’ve even seen this, more than a handful of times, when that other person is really trying to help us avoid a mistake. An appropriate word for this might be “hubris.” That means excessive pride or excessive self-confidence. According to one source, in Greek tragedy it means “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.” That same source lists these synonyms: “arrogance, conceit, conceitedness, haughtiness, pride, vanity, self-importance, self-conceit, pomposity, superciliousness, feeling of superiority.” While we are at it, that still same source defines “nemesis” as: “the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall.” [Read more…]

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Rectifying Sloppy Agreements

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A 25-page court decision out of the Supreme Court of British Columbia has triggered today’s blog posting. The decision describes a convoluted, time-extended, back-and-forth negotiation over a set of interrelated, broker-prepared offers to buy and sell. In that marketplace, such documents signed by the offering party and “accepted” by the other one become “contracts of sale and purchase.” The back and forth with these documents began in early February, After a number of handwritten changes and the addition of a couple of pages, they were finally “accepted” in late July.

There were a few issues with the wording of the three separate “contracts,” one for each of the three properties being sold. We will focus on two of those “issues,” but will describe all those we think the court described.

One of the main issues had to do with the way the buyer’s name was shown. It appeared in multiple places in each contract. The actual buyer’s name included the word “Investment,” but the broker who first prepared the documents wrote “Development.” Fortunately, for the sake of sanity, the buyer noticed these errors and made corrections, but just not thoroughly enough. By way of example, the name printed above the buyer’s signature line in one of the contracts read “Development” when it should have read “Investment.” Both companies actually existed and they, in fact, were related entities. [Read more…]

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It Might Be Negligence To Leave Out The Word Negligence (Unless It Isn’t)

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Are there “magic words” or are there not? Once again, we feel compelled to warn readers that “we need to know what we are doing.” A lot of people in this “business” of ours cross over jurisdictional lines whether rightly or not. There is a lot of material out there about the ethics of doing so. That’s a reasonable concern to have, but there is a far less discussed, but more serious, problem. It is called malpractice. That term is not limited to attorneys. It isn’t even limited to professionals. It is hard enough to know the law in a single jurisdiction. Know the “law” in every jurisdiction (e.g., state) is, frankly speaking, impossible.

If we are going to “practice” in the real estate world, we need to practice well, not malpractice. “Mal” is a “combing form,” one that is added to words. It comes from the French “mal,” and that came from the Latin “male” which meant “badly.” [We sure hope the word is pronounced differently than is the gender.] The bottom line, however, is that “malpractice” is practicing in a faulty or improper or inadequate manner. No reader of this blog wants to come within a million miles of anything “mal” in her or his practice. So, we need to know that we don’t know the law everyplace. One example is how various jurisdictions view liability waivers. Today, we write only about one aspect of that question – whether to effectively be released from one’s own negligence, a waiver must expressly say that “negligence” is being waived or whether waiving “all” claims for damage really means “all,” including those claims arising out of negligence. [Read more…]

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Hindsight Isn’t Always 20/20

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Guilty! Ruminations and its author have done this, though we’ve long been conscious of its flaws. What is “this”? It is that we’ve criticized documents prepared by others when we “weren’t there.” Before we proceed with today’s rant, a small clarification is in order. There will be no apology for our pointing out unnecessarily vague or ambiguous language. In fact, we think there is a place for intentional ambiguity and remain firmly behind the thoughts we expressed seven years ago in a piece titled: The Artful Use of Intentional Ambiguity in Document Drafting. It can be seen by clicking: HERE. What we are pleading guilty to is to the crime of criticizing others based on business terms that have included or omitted from their documents. Often, that’s the wrong thing to do. Let the ones among us, those who have not done this, throw the first stone.

Experience and intellect qualify us to analyze a lease or purchase agreement or loan document or whatever. Those qualify us to question why some things have been included and others omitted. We are not alone. Many, many readers (and non-readers) of Ruminations are similarly or even better qualified. But, having the ability to do so doesn’t mean we should be doing so. Why do we feel that way? [Read more…]

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Fighting The Last War

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In 1934, Edward P. Warner, writing about the implementation of the National Recovery Act (N.R.A.), expressed the following: “There is a saying that is rather common among the critics of the military profession that ‘soldiers are always preparing to fight the last war.’ Business must not incur the rebuke that it is devoting itself to preparing to sell goods under the conditions of the last economic cycle.”

The language is a little “1934” stiff, but the message remains relevant. We shouldn’t be structuring deals for the future as if the future will be unchanged from the past. That’s not to say we should fashion every deal tabula rasa (as if on a blank slate). Of course, much of what has worked in the past remains valid today. But, “much” falls short of “everything.” The trick is knowing what to save and what to discard. Until a genuine “crystal ball” is invented, we’ll need to divine the future unaided by a magical device. Instead, what we all need to do is to pay attention to early trends, some of which have been in front of our eyes for years, even decades. [Read more…]

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Personal Or General Misfortunes

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We’ve stolen our title from an article (or possibly it is a blog piece) dealing with the same concept but in a completely different field of endeavor. It wasn’t even about anything objective. But, its title and subject matter got us thinking about just what its author was discussing: that is “who should bear the risk?” We wrote about this a long time ago and, at the time, thought we had written a definitive piece on the subject. Now, we know we had not. Neither will be today’s posting. [For those intent on visiting the past, here’s a link to our 2013 rambling: LINK.]

Who deserves to lose when uncontrollable events present such an opportunity? We think few would argue that a tenant whose business goes south at all or most of its locations shouldn’t blame itself and should not blame any particular landlord. Similarly, if the neighborhood turns for the worst, and rental values fall, individual tenants are blameless when it comes to the landlord’s investment loss. But those examples aren’t entirely correct. [Read more…]

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Three Gems (Or So We Think)

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We’ve been doing Ruminations since 2011 and yet this is the first time we’ve deliberately done a multi-topic blog posting. Generally, when we choose a topic (400+ thus far) we dig in and treat(?) our readers to several pages of our ramblings. That approach has precluded our covering simple or easily contained topics, ones undeserving of deep drilling down. So, today, for the first time (but, perhaps not the last), we present a little of this and a little of that.

Overnight Delivery. In New York, service of lawsuit papers upon an attorney in a pending matter may be accomplished in a number of ways, including: [Read more…]

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