The appellee drafted the contract with the language “PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE RELEASE SCHEDULE TO BE REVIEWED QUARTERLY” contained within. This language is fundamentally ambiguous and misleading. As professor Underberg stated in his lesson, in any situation with uncertain terms, the participating party who did not draft the document would prevail in litigation if the contract in question contains ambiguity. I agree with the principles of construction that were utilized in this trial and find that judgment in favor of the appellee should- in the terms of the court- be “vacated.”
Furthermore, based on evidence found in this trial, the court was correct to rule in favor of the appellant. If Mr. Leslie had knowledge that Pennco interpreted the terms differently, this may have altered the application of the principles of construction and affected the overall deciding factors, leading the court to come to a different conclusion. Law is founded on situational evidence, and if said situational evidence is altered, so may be the decision of the court.
Dana E Publico
I agree with the court’s decision. In reading the court’s opinion it was clear they concluded some ambiguity and that the four corners of the document did not provide enough evidence to interpret the phrase “Please note the above release schedule to be reviewed quarterly” with meaning. Therefore, the court allowed extrinsic evidence in the form of Fadale and Leslies’ testimonies as to whether the two parties discussed the meaning of this phrase during negotiations and prior to the final purchase order.
To make the case that it is standard for this phrase to allow for termination of the contract using extrinsic evidence, the burden of proof falls on Fadale and his company since he has a different meaning of the phrase and yet did not notify Leslie of it. Under the forthright negotiator rule the matter should have been resolved for Leslie to begin with; I believe this is where the appeals court was driving toward is calling for a new trial. Should Mr. Leslie have known Penco had a differing interpretation of the phrase in question I think the purchase order language may have been clarified by Mr. Leslie; at the very least that knowledge probably would have avoided the contract dispute altogether.