Groceries And Other Definitions Revisited

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Groceries, sandwiches, ice cream, supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, variety stores – oh, the words we use, what do they mean? Today, we revisit one of our most-read blog postings because a federal appeals court revisited the underlying case (again). We’re “talking” about the Winn-Dixie case. Our “take” on that underlying case can be read by clicking: HERE. Ruminations urges readers to refresh their memories now by re-reading our earlier blog posting

Winn-Dixie, a supermarket chain, won a court decision in Florida where the lower court ruled that “groceries” included soup, aluminum foil, and similar items. As a result, it ruled that dozens of “dollar” type stores run by three retailers were in violation of a provision in the supermarket’s lease prohibiting others from selling groceries. Basically, the federal court that first heard the lawsuit looked at an earlier state court ruling, and (kind of properly) treated it as binding on itself, the federal court. [Read more…]

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Waiving Non-Waiver Provisions By Waiving Such Provisions (Again)

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We’ve written about the legal concept of “waiver” too many times to warrant furnishing any links to earlier blog postings. To sum it up succinctly, we’ll start with an example of a pretty familiar provision found in most agreements such as leases and mortgages (to keep us within the real property family). It reads as follows:

All waivers must be in writing and signed by the waiving party. A party’s failure to enforce any provisions of this [lease] will not be a waiver and will not estop that party from enforcing that provision or any other provision of this [lease] in the future.

If an English-speaking visitor arrived from outer space and, after completing its abduction of one or more of the world’s inhabitants, read this, it would think there could be no waiver if it were not given in writing. It would be wrong. Likewise, native-born earthlings should always have some doubt as to whether to rely solely on the ability to read. Context (and established law) matter.

Generally speaking, at least under United States jurisprudence, the Texas Supreme Court, in a clarifying (for Texas) May 12, 2017 decision, wrote the following: [Read more…]

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Real Estate Community Expectations And The Agreements We Reach

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In writing for a broad audience in a somewhat breezy manner, Ruminations frequently fears it is misleading some readers. As hard as we try to incorporate appropriate caveats when expounding on legal principles, Ruminations is quite aware of a built-in shortcoming. It isn’t enough to carefully highlight the limitations of what appears in a blog posting. It isn’t enough to warn that this blog is written to provoke discussion and is not written as a substitute for real legal advice. These blog postings discuss matters of law, but the “law” means nothing in the abstract. It only matters when applied to specific facts being examined. The very same “law” applied to two different situations can produce starkly different  ̶  sometimes seemingly opposite  ̶  results. That’s because the law is intended to support a civil society and, in such a society, outcomes are expected to meet community expectations.

An excellent example of a law crafted to meet community expectations is Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. That’s the part of the “UCC” governing the sale of goods. Basically, it works in a number of ways. One of those ways is to act as a “gap filler.” That’s not something one buys at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or an Ace Hardware store. In this context, a gap filler is a contract provision that the contracting parties didn’t write down. The Act’s “gap fillers” are actually a codification of “what really goes on,” hence part of a “Code.” It codifies practices in the commercial community. Basically, in this role, Article 2’s function is to create rules that persons in that community, the one in which buyers and sellers transact in goods, would expect in the absence of something specifically to the contrary in their specific agreement. [Read more…]

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Grammar And Optical Illusions

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Ruminations has never really figured out when to use “which” and when to use “that.” No matter how many times we read that one is used with dependent clauses and the other is used with independent clauses, the rule never sinks in. We don’t even remember which is used with which. To us, it seems like the optical illusion of a hollow mask where you see either a convex face or a concave face depending on who knows what. Small comfort to us that we think we are in good company in this failing. [To learn more about the hollow mask, click: HERE.]

So, does this have anything to do with legal matters? We think so based on a recent decision out of the Delaware Chancery Court, one pitting lawyers from a pair of top drawer Delaware and Washington DC firms against a similar pair of top draw firms from Delaware and Washington DC. And, like many other disputes we’ve read about in judicial decisions, we just wonder: “How do some of us keep a straight face when making some of these arguments?” [Read more…]

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How Can I Get Out Of My Oral Agreement?

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It’s not true that oral contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. In fact, for all but some small classes of agreements, oral ones are no different than ones printed on the finest of rag papers. Certainly, they are more difficult to prove their very existence, let alone their detailed provisions. That’s a good reason they should be memorialized in a written version. We’ve written, “memorialized” because, in many cases that’s the real function the writing performs. The parties will have already agreed to the terms of their intended transaction. At that stage, they have a contract – a binding agreement. Writing it down doesn’t make it any more “official,” just a lot easier to follow and a lot easier to explain the “deal” to others, attorneys included.

So as not to mislead some readers, we aren’t dismissing the “Statute of Frauds,” something most (perhaps all) states adopted based on a 1677 English law with the self-explanatory name: “An Act for the Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries.” While various states have different lists of what kind of agreements need to be in writing lest one party or the other be able to disavow their agreement just because it was oral (and for no other disabling reason), traditionally most agreements involving conveyances of real property fall or fell (depending on where the property is located) under these statutes. [Read more…]

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Stop Them Now – They Are Killing Me!

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  • Until about a month ago (or, perhaps until this past September), had you asked us if a court would order a tenant to keep its store open and operating, we would have said, “Probably, not,” with an emphasis on the “Not.” We think a large majority of our colleagues would have agreed. That’s not to say that there couldn’t have been very special circumstances not included within our “Not,” but we would have thought those circumstances would need to have been unique in character. Today, after an Indiana court has (for now) barred a chain store retailer from closing 77 stores located in the aggrieved developer’s malls and a Washington state court has (for now) barred a (chain) supermarket from closing a single store, we’re far less sure. We aren’t going to dissect those two court orders today. That’s for next week, another holiday weekend. Today, we’ll just glaze eyes over with some legal background. [Read more…]
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Whose Deal Is It Anyway – Ours Or Our Client’s?

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In a perfect world, wouldn’t everyone’s lease or other agreement comments on behalf of the same party be identical (grammar and spelling aside)? Shouldn’t everyone working on behalf of a tenant, landlord, borrower, lender or the like know exactly what her or his “client” wants to see in the agreement? We suppose so, but a perfect world is still pretty far away. And, it isn’t a lack of knowledge (perfect knowledge?) that would result in different agreements for the same client and circumstances if negotiation were done by different people. There are a lot of factors. One factor is that for a lot of good reasons that sound much like “time and money” each negotiator would have her or his own impression as to what that particular client wants or needs. Another is that, for many parts of an agreement, it doesn’t matter – “six of one; a half dozen of another. But, the one that stands out to Ruminations is that those doing the negotiating will actually be substituting their own judgment for that of the party they represent. [Read more…]

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Is There A Limit To Waiving A Non-Waiver Clause?

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When we first wrote about the loophole in non-waiver clauses that recognizes parties can orally agree to waive such clauses even one that explicitly say that there can be no oral waivers, we got some notes expressing incredulity. After the reality set in, the notes started asking whether there were any limits to this “loophole.” We at Ruminations didn’t know how to answer until we came across a May 12, 2017 decision from the Texas Supreme Court in a case where one of the parties has this name: Boo Nathanial Bradberry. The decision can be seen by clicking: HERE. It ruled there was a limit and its reasoning makes pretty good sense. [Read more…]

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