Hindsight Isn’t Always 20/20

Print

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…]

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

Don’t Know How To Do It? Then, Don’t!

Print

Some concepts are so simple that we never think that we’d have to point them out. But, today, one of those concepts occurred to us, and we’d like to share it with our readers. Here it is:

If you are going to craft documents, be they leases, purchase agreements or ‘whatever,’ you should know what you are doing.

Experience can be a good teacher, if your experience is good. Bad experiences could be a good teacher as well if you learn (quickly and correctly) and especially if they were someone else’s bad experiences.

Today’s blog posting was triggered by a nearly year-old Maryland court decision. The particular problem pointed out by the court, however, is something we’ve seen played out more than several times over the years. In this version, it involved a right and option provision amended into an existing lease. The relevant text read as follows: [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

What Do You Mean When You Write: “Subject To”?

Print

The augurs of ancient Rome prognosticated by inspecting the entrails of birds. Similarly, courts divine meaning by interpreting the detritus of our documents. When we don’t leave a clear message behind, those who follow get to tell us what the words we used meant. Sometimes they are right; sometimes not.

Ruminations now rushes in where fools fear to tread. We’re going to extract some lessons from a Supreme Court of Texas decision about mineral rights and royalties. Bless those who labor in that world. If we get something wrong in this world of oil and gas and other things extracted, we’re sure to hear from those whose world we are about to invade.

When a married couple purchased a certain 55-acre property, their seller “reserved” a 1/4 mineral interest (actually an NPRI – a non-participating royalty interest) in the property. That means the original owner would continue to get 1/4 of the benefits from all oil, gas, and minerals extracted from beneath the property.

Property ownership involves what is likened to a “bundle of sticks.” That means there are many rights embodied within the concept of ownership. These rights can be separated and different owners can own different rights in the same property. So, in the “mineral rights” concept, one party can own the property’s surface and another can own the subsurface portion. Similarly, one can own all of a property’s land right down to the earth’s core, excluding the minerals in that “dirt,” and those can be owned by another. Just like a “total” property can have multiple owners, so can those minerals. So, here, the married couple had a 3/4 interest in the property’s minerals and their seller kept a 1/4 interest. So far, so good. [Read more…]

Print

Bye Bye LIBOR (And Friends)

Print

Yes, many readers may have heard whispers (or stage whispers) about the demise of LIBOR. Well, it goes on life support on December 31, 2021 and that might also be the date of its death. That’s when the banks that provide its underlying data will no longer be obligated to do so. Who cares? Those who set borrowing interest rates certainly do. Those who have loan documents based on some spread over a LIBOR rate where those documents didn’t consider a back-up rate if LIBOR ever went away care even more. [Read more…]

Print

Price; Quality; Time – Pick Two

Print

It is Labor Day weekend (and the start of Labor Day week). Ruminations has tried to present short blog postings on such weekends. Frankly, we’ve not been successful. Today’s posting is yet another attempt. So, with 30 words already behind us, here we go.

In the management field of study, there is something called the “Project Management Triangle.” We’re not sure when we first heard the term or discovered the concept it describes. So, when we went to research some “history,” we discovered it isn’t really an obscure secret in other fields of endeavor. Based on long experience though, our industry doesn’t yet seem to have discovered the concept. The “Project Management Triangle” has a number of other names: “Triple Constraint,” “Project Triangle,” and “Iron Triangle.” [“Iron Triangle” is also used to describe an aspect of Washington politics, and we leave the reader to explore that form of its use on her or his own.] [Read more…]

Print