You Need To Know French To Choose Applicable Law For Your Agreement

Print

Today, we begin with a French lesson. The French word, “renvoi,” means “to return,” in the sense of “sending back.” In law, “Renvoi” is a doctrine, and what follows is why you’ll be pleased to know that.

Last week, we tackled the humdrum, excitement-lacking “boilerplate” of specifying, in a lease or other agreement, an exclusive venue for litigation. What we didn’t even hint at was that just because the parties are obligated to duke it out in a particular jurisdiction doesn’t mean that the law of that jurisdiction will apply to their fight. Often, but not always, parties are free to specify which jurisdiction’s (state’s) law will govern their dispute. As to the location (venue) for the match, though some states will allow contracting parties with no connection to those jurisdictions to avail themselves of that state’s courts, most still require the parties or the subject matter of the dispute to at least “touch” their state. For example, if a loan is made in State X on a property in State Y, but the lender or borrower is in State “Z,” it is likely that each of those three states would allow its courts to hear the dispute. But, which state’s law would apply? A less than comprehensive list of the factors a court will use in deciding to apply the law of a jurisdiction other than its own would be: the parties’ intent, their domiciles, where the lease or other agreement was executed, and where the property is located. In the case of “property,” a secondary analysis is made as to whether the property is primary or secondary to the agreement in front of the court. For example, a personal guaranty of a mortgage loan may only have an attenuated relationship to the property serving as collateral for the loan and the parties are able to call for jurisdiction where either the borrower or lender “resides.” It could also be, but isn’t required to be, where the property is located. [A separate issue is whether a party or either party can be served in other than its “home” state, but we’ll leave that for another day (if ever)]. [Read more…]

Print

Look At The Venue Language In Your Agreements

Print

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…]

Print

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None – Avoiding Hubris

Print

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…]

Print

Rectifying Sloppy Agreements

Print

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…]

Print

Personal Or General Misfortunes

Print

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…]

Print

Three Gems (Or So We Think)

Print

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…]

Print

Maybe A Word Doesn’t Mean What It Unambiguously Means

Print

Let’s get out in the world. Let’s leave our silos. Let’s break through the real estate bubble. What is Ruminations babbling about? Real property law is not an island unto itself. It is part of the entire body of law. Yet, even those few of us who search for “real” law don’t often look at what courts say in other areas. There are things that can be learned by leaving the real estate tent to see how the rest of the (law) world lives. Today’s blog posting could show why we need to take such strolls. It describes a court decision about how to interpret a seemingly unambiguous trust document. There’s a story behind it and here it is.

As part of her estate plan, a grandmother left her estate’s assets to a trust that paid its income to her surviving husband. She specified that whatever was left upon his death was to go to her surviving grandchildren. Biologically, she had six. Two of her three children insisted that when she wrote “grandchildren,” she only considered four of those six as such. The woman suffered from no mental deficiencies. She was fully competent right up until her death. She could count. She could name all six. Yet, a court agreed that when she said the trust’s assets were to go to her grandchildren, she might have meant only four of them. [It didn’t reach that conclusion. It ordered a lower court to hold a trial to determine what the word “grandchildren” meant to her – what was her “personal” definition.] [Read more…]

Print

Writing That One Must Arbitrate May Not Be Enough To Require Arbitration

Print

We’ve written about arbitration a few times and made reference to this alternate dispute resolution process in several blog postings over the years. [For example, click: HERE or HERE.] Those who read our Ruminations may remember that we are somewhat ambivalent about its general use and a little more inclined toward its use for specific, discrete disputes, such as battles over operating expenses.

Today, for the benefit of those who like the concept and who use provisions such as: “All disputes hereunder will be resolved by arbitration,” we have a new warning. [Perhaps, we should write, “alert.”] When we first heard about an Appellate Division ruling from a New Jersey Court, one that threw out a contract’s “must arbitrate” that read as follows:

Any and all claims or controversies arising out of or relating to [plaintiff’s] employment, the termination thereof, or otherwise arising between [plaintiff] and [defendant] shall, in lieu of a jury or other civil trial, be settled by final and binding arbitration. This agreement to arbitrate includes all claims whether arising in tort or contract and whether arising under statute or common law including, but not limited to, any claim of breach of contract, discrimination or harassment of any kind.

we said (to ourselves), “That must be wrong.” After all, doesn’t the quoted provision clearly and unequivocally say that any and all claims have to be arbitrated? But, after reading the decision itself, we switched sides. That’s not to say that New Jersey’s Supreme Court won’t reverse the ruling, because it might. After all, courts just seem to “love” arbitration and seem to bend over backward to validate every agreement to arbitrate. On the side agreeing with the Appellate Division, however, is a (previously unknown to us) 2009 Mississippi Supreme Court decision eerily similar to this month’s New Jersey decision. [Read more…]

Print