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Court Couldn't Detect Intent In Unsigned Email Contract

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 04:40 am

 

Ambiguity -- Contract Terms

Shaw Hofstra & Assoc. v. Ladco Development, Inc., 2012 U.S. App. (8th Cir. March 12, 2012)

The contract up for dispute in this case involved an architect's "fee proposal," which may have been replaced by a letter agreement, which was then allegedly replaced by an email disguised as a settlement agreement.

Architect Shaw Hofstra & Associates (SHA) claimed it was never paid for schematic design work and other architectural services it provided to Ladco Development, Inc. (Ladco) for a large office building project in Kansas City, Kansas. A jury ruled in SHA's favor and awarded $250,000 in damages. Ladco appealed, alleging that the parties' contract was unambiguous and therefore should have been interpreted by a court, not a jury. The appellate court disagreed.

"Interpretation of a contract is a jury question only when the court determines that the contract is ambiguous and that there exists a genuine factual dispute regarding the intent of the parties." Weitz Co. v. MH Washington, 631 F.3d 510, 524 (8th Cir. 2011). Here, the appellate court agreed that th[...]

 
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