Contract Drafting (Toedt - Spring 2018)

Updated Monday January 22, 2018 14:51 Houston time

1 Preface

Welcome. This Web page contains the reading material and course information for my spring 2018 Contract Drafting course.

Quick links:

Important note (spring 2018): If you normally print out course materials such as this, you might want to wait. That's because, in response to student feedback about an experiment last semester, this semester we will do things slightly differently than before:

  • Starting in a few days, we will spend significant class time studying and rewriting selected "wall of text" contract provisions from publicly-available contracts.

    This rewriting approach proved to be surprisingly popular with students when we tried it last semester; more than one student said that it was one of the best things about the course.

  • The pre-class reading assignments will consist mainly of (i) previewing the upcoming in-class exercises, and (ii) looking over any reading materials cited (and, usually, linked) in the exercise.

I don't yet have a good feel for how fast our progress will be, so I haven't tried to assign specific rewriting projects to specific class days; we will work through the rewriting- and other exercises in order.

To accommodate this new(ish) approach, I've been rearranging and consolidating various course materials from previous semesters. Unfortunately, it's been taking longer than I had hoped and is still in progress; I've finished the first couple of classes' worth and hope to finish the whole course in a few more days, but you might still have to jump around to different documents for a while. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience, and thanks in advance for your patience.

2 Agenda for the near term (in development)

2.1 Startup

  1. Student introductions:
    • Name
    • 2L? 3L? LLM?
    • Career intentions
    • Undergraduate school & degree
    • Work experience
    • Previous contract experience
  2. Small-group assignments
  3. Provide email addresses in the virtual whiteboards
  4. First in-class exercise: Where did DCT go to law school? Reason: It's a good idea to look up the people on the other side of a contract negotiation — or for that matter, anyone else you'll be dealing with. Google and LinkedIn are extremely useful for that purpose.
  5. PSA: Counseling is available.

2.2 Read-along lecture: General course information

2.2.1 This course's approach

Course goals

The goal of this course is to help students prepare for a type of assignment they will likely see throughout their careers: that of (sometimes) drafting, (very often) reviewing, analyzing, explaining, and negotiating contracts.

Social proof: Student comments

Following the sales-and-marketing principles of using social proof and setting the hook, here are some representative student comments from official course evaluations in past semesters:

"… really enjoyed the approach to class and quizzes."

"His course is different from the norm and his methods are re­freshing. … Professor Toedt's approach allows students to figure out the issue on their own but provides students with the tools necessary to reach an answer (which he then explains/corrects)."

"You learn piece by piece the process throughout the semester to be able to effectively draft/redline contracts."

"I liked the practical approach of the course – very effective teaching technique by using repetition and in class exercises."

A variation on Socratic method, with in-class study groups

Don't assume that we will "cover the material" in class. Instead, we'll use a supposedly-new approach known as "flipping the classroom." This approach has become popular in educational circles, because it has been shown to be more effective than the trad­i­tion­al lecture format. See, e.g., Cyn­thia J. Brame, Flipping the Classroom (Vand­er­bilt.edu 2013: https://goo.gl/trS6e4). But it's really just the same thing that law schools have been doing for years: The flipped classroom was pioneered by Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, but he himself cites the law-school case study method as "one of the first implementations of the flipped classroom." The flipped classroom will redefine the role of educators (an interview with Eric Mazur) (Harvard.edu 2013: https://goo.gl/bSdh55).

More contract revising than drafting

In this course, we will practice good drafting skills by revising the work of others. Specifically:

  • Each week, in small groups during class, We will spend significant class time studying and rewriting selected "wall of text" contract provisions from publicly-available contracts.
  • As students rewrite provisions, I will walk around and look over their shoulders, occasionally making (quiet) comments.
  • In some cases, you'll be asked to clean up your rewrites after class and submit them as (pass-fail) homework, which I'll mark up with comments.

The specific provisions that we rewrite will cover various substantive areas that are often encountered in contract drafting and -review. Accordingly, many of the pre-class reading assignments will consist of (i) previewing the upcoming in-class exercises, and (ii) looking over any reading materials cited (and, usually, linked) in the exercise.

This review-and-revise approach reflects what you're almost certain to see when you start out in practice: Contract drafters spend far less time drafting contracts than they do in reviewing and revising others' drafts. Even when you're the one who must prepare the first draft, you'll almost always be urged to find a previous form of agreement and modify it, instead of starting from scratch with a blank screen. Our approach in this course reflects that fact as well.

SOCIAL PROOF: In a past semester, one student said:

At first, I was disappointed that the amount of writing was small. [That's no longer the case: We will be doing a lot of REwriting.] I took the course to learn how to write a contract. What I could not see at the time, I was learning the fundamental building blocks individually. By the end of the course, all that was left was to put it together and step back.
Learning to spot and root out ambiguity

In the in-class exercises, we will do a lot of practice in spotting and fixing ambiguities. This is because in the real world, ambiguity might well be the #1 source of contract disputes. Many of the short practice exercises will be drawn from non-legal sources.

Repetition, repetition, repetition — and jumping around

Some of the short exercises and quizzes will seem repetitive; they also will seem to jump around from topic to topic. This is a feature, not a bug, because:

  • It mirrors what you'll almost certainly see in practice; and
  • pedagogically it's been shown to be more effective at promoting long-term memory than lecture and repetitive reading. See generally Spaced retrieval (Wikipedia: https://goo.gl/4PRZTy).

This approach might strike some students as disorganized or even chaotic. Over the years, though, most students seem to have come to appreciate the value of the approach, so please try to "go with it."

Incidentally, you can do your own spaced-retrieval practice by using the online flashcards. The in-class quizzes and the non-essay portions of the final exam will be drawn very largely from these flashcard questions.

2.2.2 Course materials

The main reading material will be:

On Contract Drafting, still very much a work in progress (especially as we shift to doing more rewriting). I intend to keep making it available at no charge; I'm trying to set it up to print out nicely for those who prefer hard copy. Students are encouraged to make suggestions and comments as the semester progresses;

• the Common Draft annotated catalog of contract terms, a side project of mine that I'm converting into a book; and

• a Supplement, consisting of several real-world contracts that I've annotated and printed to PDF. We'll study selected portions of these contracts.

2.2.3 Typical class session

Our typical class session will go generally as follows, , with possible variations from time to time:

  1. Only on certain Mondays: a short Blackboard quiz;
  2. Sometimes, brief "in the news" discussions, to give students a sense of what kinds of situations they and their clients are likely to encounter;
  3. Sometimes, small-group and whole-class discussion of the reading;
  4. Review of the homework (if applicable);
  5. Two or three short exercises;
  6. One or more rewriting exercises and/or longer discussion exercises;
  7. Sometimes, a preview of upcoming exercises;
  8. Sometimes, group discussion of lessons learned.

2.2.4 Small-group assignments

The following groups were chosen randomly using Microsoft Excel. They'll be reshuffled twice during the semester, so that students will have an opportunity to work with different people.

Starting Monday January 22
6:00 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Vikas Atmakuri
Robert Garcia
Melanie Fridgant
Ruth Rivera-Arriaga

GROUP 2
Bernardo Sada-Paz
Graham Taylor
Melanie Volk
Jay Zhang

GROUP 3
Tania Alonzo
Christopher Lee
Tieumi Nguyen

GROUP 4
Kade Rhodes
Rebecca Sheinbaum
Dustin Webber

7:30 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Michael Goehring
Alexander Graf
Thomas McKee

GROUP 2
Zain Mohammad
Carson Severson
Lindsay Thorpe

GROUP 3
Brooke Alger
Brittnie Lasater
John Walker

GROUP 4
Olufunsho Oguntoyinbo
Shaleez Ozlat
David Pope
Michael Szymanski

Starting Monday February 26
6:00 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Vikas Atmakuri
Melanie Fridgant
Rebecca Sheinbaum
Bernardo Sada-Paz

GROUP 2
Christopher Lee
Robert Garcia
Melanie Volk
Jay Zhang

GROUP 3
Tania Alonzo
Dustin Webber
Ruth Rivera-Arriaga

GROUP 4
Graham Taylor
Tieumi Nguyen
Kade Rhodes

7:30 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Lindsay Thorpe
Shaleez Ozlat
Olufunsho Oguntoyinbo

GROUP 2
Carson Severson
Brittnie Lasater
David Pope

GROUP 3
Michael Szymanski
Michael Goehring
John Walker

GROUP 4 Alexander Graf
Zain Mohammad
Brooke Alger
Thomas McKee

Starting Monday April 2
6:00 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Bernardo Sada-Paz
Robert Garcia
Melanie Volk
Jay Zhang

GROUP 2
Dustin Webber
Kade Rhodes
Vikas Atmakuri
Melanie Fridgant

GROUP 3
Rebecca Sheinbaum
Christopher Lee
Tania Alonzo

GROUP 4
Ruth Rivera-Arriaga
Graham Taylor
Tieumi Nguyen

7:30 p.m. section

GROUP 1
Shaleez Ozlat
Carson Severson
Alexander Graf

GROUP 2
Lindsay Thorpe
Olufunsho Oguntoyinbo
Michael Szymanski

GROUP 3
Michael Goehring
Thomas McKee
Brittnie Lasater

GROUP 4 David Pope
Zain Mohammad
Brooke Alger
John Walker

2.2.5 Extra class time to avoid a makeup class

The ABA requires 700 minutes of instruction for each credit hour; that means we need 2,100 minutes of instruction for our three-hour course. The January 17 was canceled because of freezing weather; that means we have 26 scheduled class meetings, and so we must achieve the needed minutes of instruction by either:

  • meeting for 78 minutes per class; or
  • meeting on one of our scheduled makeup days, which are all on Fridays at the same time as the regular class period. For the Monday classes the makeup days are Jan. 26, Feb. 23, and March 30; for the Wednesday classes the makeup days are Feb. 9, March 9 (the Friday before spring break), and Apr. 13.

I'm a practicing attorney and arbitrator; I normally don't have to miss class, but it has been known to happen, e.g., when I've had out-of-town commitments. There have also been times when class has been canceled due to weather, such as what was supposed to have been the first day of class in January 2018. (And on the evening of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, we canceled the evening class.)

But very few students are eager to come to a makeup class on a Friday evening.

So as an alternative to makeup classes, and as recommended by the Law Center's administration:

  • we will end each class session at 7:20 p.m. and 8:50 p.m., respectively; and
  • we will do some "asynchronous" instruction, e.g., by email and/or Blackboard.

That will let us accummulate at least one extra class session's worth of minutes and, with any luck, avoid having to do a Friday makeup class.

2.2.6 Last-day agenda

The last day of class will generally include:

  • Overview of the final exam plan;
  • Collaborative review of key concepts, using the virtual whiteboards to create a master outline for each group;
  • Group discussion of what would make the course and/or the materials more useful to next semester's students, and what didn't work so well, again using the virtual whiteboard;
  • Course evaluation, using the UH online system;
  • Pizza for the section (6:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.) that has the highest average for the quizzes; and
  • A Jeopardy! game.

2.2.7 Contact information; computer use; email addresses

» I can be reached at dc@toedt.com or (713) 364-6545 (which forwards to my cell); see also my About page.

» Computer use in class is not just encouraged but required; you will need in-class Web access for many of the in-class exercises. If this will be a problem, be sure to contact me well in advance.

(You might, however, want to rethink whether to use laptops in your other classes; see, e.g., this article by a professor at the University of Michigan about how classroom laptop users not only do worse than those who take notes by hand, they also interfere with the learning of non-laptop users around them.)

» On the first class day I will be asking for your email addresses so that I can include it in a class Google Group. Please provide an email address that you check regularly.

2.2.8 Office hours

I'm happy to do office hours by appointment by Skype or Zoom.us video or by phone. I’m also very responsive to email questions.

2.2.9 Recording my lectures

I don't make audio recordings of my lectures, but I have no objection to students doing so and sharing the recordings with other UHLC students.

2.2.10 Microsoft Word: Crucial things to know

1. The safest way to format a paragraph without corrupting the document and crashing the Word program is to format the style of the paragraph, not the individual paragraph itself. See generally, e.g., The Styles advantage in Word (support.microsoft.com: https://goo.gl/v8Jbej); Item 3 in the 2013 list of tips to avoid crashing Word, by John McGhie (answers.microsoft.com: https://goo.gl/VxqJKs). NOTE: McGhie's tip no. 2 is to avoid Track Changes, but I've never had a problem with it — at least so far as I know.

2. To create a heading, use Heading styles: Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.

The following apply mainly to the formatting of styles, but can be used with caution to format individual paragraphs:

3. On rare occasions, to adjust the line spacing within a specific paragraph, use the menu sequence: Format | Paragraph | Indents and Spacing | Spacing (almost smack in the middle of the dialog box on a Mac).

4. To adjust the spacing between paragraphs, use the menu sequence: Format | Paragraph | Indents and Spacing menu. Don’t use a blank line to separate paragraphs — adjust the spacing instead.) See generally Practical Typography: Spacing Between Paragraphs (PracticalTypography.com: https://goo.gl/vNjeKF).

5. To keep one paragraph on the same page with the following paragraph (which is sometimes useful), use the menu sequence Format | Paragraph | Line and Page Breaks | Keep with Next.

Here are some other tips:

6. A table of contents can be useful in a long contract. To create a table of contents, in the References tab, use the Table of Contents dropdown box and select Custom Table of Contents.

7. Tables can sometimes be useful in contracts. To remove the borders from a table (the way Word normally creates them), first use the menu sequence: Table | Select | Table. Then use the menu sequence: Format | Borders & Shading | Borders | None.

8. To copy and paste a short snippet from a Web page into a Microsoft Word document without messing up the formatting of the paragraph into which you’re pasting the snippet, use the menu sequence: Edit | Paste Special | Unformatted text. (Alternatively: Edit | Paste and Match Formatting.)

2.3 Read-along lecture: Grading

2.3.1 School-required average: 3.0 to 3.4

As required by law school policy for a writing class, grades will be adjusted pro­por­tion­al­ly to the extent necessary to make the average of the final class grades fall within the range specified in the heading of this section.

2.3.2 Final grade based on 500 total points

Your course grade will be based on how many points you earn out of 500 total possible points, as explained below.

2.3.3 Four quizzes, one every third week: 200 points total

We will have an on-line quiz, administered via Blackboard, at the beginning of class on each of the following Mondays: Feb. 12; Mar. 5; Mar. 26; Apr. 16.

Each quiz will:

  • be timed for two- to five minutes (people with accommodations can get extra time — ask Dean Tennessee to let me know if you're one of those people);
  • consist of up to 40 true-false, multiple-choice, and fill-in-the-blank questions, and very likely more questions than most people can answer in the allotted time;
  • cover only the following:
    • any of the 100-plus online flashcards at https://goo.gl/o5gG5M — that is, anything in the flashcards is fair game for any of the quizzes, whether or not we've covered that material in class. I will likely add to the flashcards as the semester progresses, but I will segregate any new questions and give you plenty of advance notice before including new questions in a quiz; and
    • anything in the exercises that we have covered to date — the quizzes themselves will thus serve as a reinforcing review that takes advantage of the testing effect;
  • be closed-book, closed-notes;
  • be graded automatically by Blackboard — thus, quiz grading is effectively anonymous (even though I can see student names), except that I review the fill-in-the-blank answers so that I can give credit for simple misspellings, which Blackboard can't always pick up. (I program the quizzes on Blackboard to accept as many misspellings as I can think of, but you'd be surprised how … creative students can be ….)

In past quizzes, a few students have gotten the right answer to every question on every quiz. In response, one student suggested that I "[d]esign quizzes to have a wider score distribution." I continue to try to do so, but I'm far more interested in having as many students really learn as much as possible of what I regard as necessary material, than I am in sorting the students into a grade distribution; consequently, I'm not at all unhappy if lots of students get perfect scores on the quizzes.

2.3.4 Final exam: 200 points, May 9, 6 to 7 p.m. (both sections)

The final exam will:

  • be one hour in length;
  • consist in large part of what amounts to a mid-term quiz on steroids, namely true-false, multiple-choice, and short-answer questions, administered via Blackboard, drawn from the online flashcards at https://goo.gl/o5gG5M (I will be adding to these flashcards as the semester progresses);
  • also include a few short-answer questions, such as "Explain if false," to be made available at the exam time at, and to be uploaded (anonymously) to, the Blackboard system in the same way as the homework assignments;
  • take place in the to-be-designated final-exam room; and
  • be closed-book, closed-notes.

What's fair game? Anything:

  • in the reading materials;
  • in the homework, quizzes, and in-class exercises.

The honor code will of course apply.

Homework: 50 points

Homework assignments will be posted soon, WARNING: In one past semester, a student failed the course — even though the student had received a (very-low) passing grade on the final exam — and therefore didn't graduate that semester as planned, because the student had turned in almost none of the homework assignments.

Class attendance: 50 point "starting bonus" (which can also be lost for non-attendance)

We will be doing:

  • a significant amount of in-class discussion; and
  • a significant number of in-class exercises, in two- to four-person teams.*

* Notice how it’s a significant amount of discussion, because “discussion” is an uncountable noun, versus a significant number of exercises, because “exercises” is a countable noun; see the Grammarist.com discussion.

Consequently, it's important for each student to attend each class, not just for his or her own benefit, but so that his or her team won't be shorthanded.

ABA accreditation rules and school policy require attendance at 80% of the class meetings for each course. We will meet a total of 26 times; rounding to the nearest whole number of classes, a student therefore must attend at least 21 class periods to comply with the 80% rule.

Every student starts out with 50 "freebie" points for class attendance, but can lose points for missing class, as follows:

TOTAL CLASSES MISSED TOTAL POINTS LOST
1 0
2 5
3 15
4 30
5 or more all 50

This means, of course, that students who miss more than one class will have to do that much better on the final, the quizzes, and homework in order to keep up with their classmates on the school-required average.

Attendance exceptions:

  • I don't count absences for "official" law school travel, e.g., for moot-court competitions, etc., as long as I'm informed in advance.
  • I also don't count up to two absences for illness — if you're ill, please don't come to class and infect the rest of us. Please email me if you'll be absent for illness; I'll take your word for it without a doctor's note.
  • Other absences, e.g., for job interviews, office visits, work trips, etc., will be counted as missed classes and will lose points as set forth above; please schedule accordingly.

If I see that one or more students are missing, I will circulate an attendance sign-in sheet. If I see that everyone is present, I normally won't bother doing so.

Class participation bump-up

As permitted by law-school policy, I reserve the right:

  • to award discretionary increases in student grades by one-third of a grade level for excellent class participation, e.g., from a B to a B-plus, assuming that this doesn't cause the class average to exceed the maximum permitted; and
  • to reduce grades for sub-standard class participation. In the past I said I would not do that; in recent semesters, though, I've had a couple of students for whom it was like pulling teeth to get them to participate even minimally.

2.4 Flashcard questions about the course info

1. QUESTION: How many points on your final grade can you earn for turning in all homework? [1]

2. QUESTION: According to the syllabus, what could happen if you didn’t turn in any homework?
A. You could still pass the course, but you'd have to make up the missing points.
B. Your grade will be dropped by one letter, e.g., A- to B- etc.
C. No adverse consequences, other than not getting the benefit of the work.
D. You will not be able to accumulate enough points to pass the course. [2]

3. QUESTION: According to the syllabus, to what extent are you allowed to collaborate with classmates in doing homework, and what are you supposed to do if you do collaborate? [3]

4. QUESTION: Which is worth the most to your final grade:
A. The homework.
B. The weekly quizzes, collectively.
C. The final exam.
D. Attendance. [4]

5. QUESTION: In Microsoft Word, what's the best way to put space between paragraphs for improved readability?
A. Format the individual paragraph.
B. Format the style of the paragraph.
C. Include an extra blank line.
D. Indent the first line. [5]

2.5 (S) Streamlining sentences (1)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   The team held a meeting to give consideration to the issue.

After:

2.6 Thumbsucker questions: Goals, etc.

For discussion, in small groups:

  1. In your practice, do you expect you'll be doing more drafting of contracts, or more review of drafts that others have prepared? Explain.
  2. What do you think are the main goals of a contract drafter or reviewer?
  3. In abstract terms, what do you think is the client's overarching goal in negotiating a contract?
  4. What do you think is likely to be the worst bottleneck in getting a contract to signature?
  5. What kind of contract language do you think business lawyers should aspire to write?
  6. TRUE OR FALSE: A contract drafter should strive to anticipate and address all harms to the client that might occur in the course of the parties' relationship.

2.7 Preview question: Vagueness vs. ambiguituy

QUESTION: What is a "vague" term? What is an "ambiguous" term?

2.8 Read-along lecture: Writing rules

Reading: Lecture-and-reading: Ten writing rules

2.9 (S) Drafting problems with a contract (1)

From a contract drafted by The Other Side of a deal (sanitized):

Within thirty (60) days of the close of previous quarter term, ABC shall provide XYZ with a revenue report that provides a total amount of Data Revenue and Software Revenue obtained by ABC during the referenced quarter term, minus any associated costs or expenses and customer returns or refunds ("Revenue Report").

QUESTION: Any drafting problem with this? (This should be really obvious.)

QUESTION: Ignoring the substance, how might this be otherwise improved to make it more readable?

2.10 Read-along lecture: Rewriting a wall of text

2.11 (R) Rewrite: From the satire

From a Collaborative Research and License Agreement between Pfizer and Rigel Pharmaceuticals:

9.2.12 PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS. To the best of its knowledge (but without having conducted any special investigation), Rigel owns or possesses sufficient legal rights to all patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes (including technology currently licensed from Stanford University) necessary for its business as now conducted and as proposed to be conducted without any conflict with, or infringement of the rights of, others. Rigel currently licenses certain technology from Stanford University (the "Licensed Technology") on an "as is" basis, with no representation or warranty from Stanford University that such technology does not infringe the proprietary rights of others. To Rigel's knowledge, Rigel has not, as of the date hereof, received any claims from any third party alleging that the use of the Licensed Technology infringes the proprietary rights of such party. Except for agreements with its own employees or consultants and standard end-user license agreements, there are no outstanding options, licenses, or agreements of any kind relating to the foregoing, nor is Rigel bound by or a party to any options, licenses, or agreements of any kind with respect to the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes of any other person or entity, other than the license agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., Stanford University, SUNY, and BASF. Rigel has not received any communications alleging that Rigel has violated or, by conducting its business as proposed, would violate any of the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, or other proprietary rights or processes of any other person or entity. Rigel is not aware that any of its employees is obligated under any contract (including licenses, covenants, or commitments of any nature) or other agreement, or subject to any judgment, decree, or order of any court or administrative agency, that would interfere with the use of such employee's best efforts to promote the interests of Rigel or that would conflict with Rigel's business as proposed to be conducted. Neither the execution nor delivery of this Agreement, nor the carrying on of Rigel's business by the employees of Rigel, nor the conduct of Rigel's business as proposed, will, to the best of Rigel's knowledge, conflict with or result in a breach of the terms, conditions, or provisions of, or constitute a default under, any contract, covenant, or instrument under which any of such employees is now obligated. Rigel is not aware of any violation by a third party of any of Rigel's patents, licenses, trademarks, service marks, tradenames, copyrights, trade secrets or other proprietary rights.

2.12 Read-along lecture: The bare necessities

2.13 Read-along lecture: Ambiguity basics

  1. Lecture-and-reading: Finding and eliminating ambiguity

2.14 Read-along lecture: Serving the reader

2.15 Preview: The Supplement

Reading: In the Supplement: "A Somewhat-Barebones Contract"

2.16 (S) Title and preamble (consulting agreement)

Read:

The provision below comes from an agreement form used by a company in the oil and gas business:

Consulting Services Agreement

This Consulting Services Contract (the "Agreement") dated [omitted] is entered into by and between [omitted], a Delaware corporation, and its affiliate companies (collectively "Company") and [omitted], a Texas corporation ("Consultant"), sometimes referred to herein individually as a "Party" or collectively as "Parties". This Agreement shall be effective on the earlier of the date that the services commence or the date that both Parties have executed the Agreement (the "Effective Date"). This agreement is entered into solely between the Company and Consultant, and no third party beneficiaries are created, except as expressly otherwise provided herein

QUESTIONS:

  1. What if any other information might you want to include in the preamble?
  2. Any thoughts about "and its affiliate companies"?
  3. At the end of the first sentence, is the period where it should be for U.S. usage?

2.17 (S) The dangers of repeating yourself

Glance at this example of D.R.Y. (Don't Repeat Yourself) from Bryan Garner's Twitter feed. How would you fix this? [6]

2.18 (N) Home Improvement "Hollywood accounting" lawsuit (2017)

  • Incontestability clause — shortened statute of limitations, waiver of discovery rule
  • Summary judgment for Walt Disney
  • Appeals court reverses: Fact issue re oral waiver of contractually-shortened limitation period (recall Cardozo opinion)
  • See the opinion and a law firm summary

2.19 (N) Harvey Weinstein's employment agreement (2017)

According to TMZ.com, Weinstein's employment agreement supposedly:

  • requires Weinstein to reimburse the company for any settlements that the company pays to settle cases arising from Weinstein's violation of the company's code of conduct;
  • requires Weinstein to pay the company liquidated damages — in escalating amounts — for repeat offenses;
  • sets out specific "cause" for which the board of directors can fire Weinstein;
  • requires mediation, then arbitration, before the board can fire Weinstein.

According to Inc.com, this is the reverse of the usual "morals clause."

QUESTION: How would this have been handled under Sheryl Sandberg's employment agreement? See line 118 et seq. and lines 212-55. For discussion:

  • At-will employment
  • Different consequences of being fired "for Cause" as opposed to not for cause
  • Liquidated damages in Weinstein employment agreement

3 Ten basic writing rules

Contract-drafting students should memorize the following rules:

Contents (click on a title)

In a few places, this chapter steals — don't worry, it's perfectly legal — from the following sources:

The theft is legal because under 17 U.S.C. § 105, copyright is not available for works that were created by officers or employees of the U.S. Government in the course of their official duties; see generally the Wikipedia article Copyright status of work by the U.S. government.

3.1 D.R.Y. (Don't Repeat Yourself): Avoid the $693,000 proofreading error

Stating information more than once in a contract can cause severe problems if (i) the information is revised during negotiation, and (ii) the revision is not made everywhere in the contract documents. Just this type of mistake once cost a bank $693,000:

• The bank sued to recover $1.7 million from defaulting borrowers and their guarantor. In the lower court, the bank won a summary judgment.

• Unfortunately for the bank, the loan documents referred to the amount borrowed as “one million seven thousand and no/100 ($1,700,000.00) dollars” (capitalization modified, emphasis added).

• The appeals court held that, under standard interpretation principles, the words, not the numbers, controlled, and so the amount guaranteed was only $1.007 million, not $1.7 million.

See Charles R. Tips Family Trust v. PB Commercial LLC, 459 S.W.3d 147 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2015) (reversing and remanding summary judgment).

Here's an example:

Before: Bob will pay Alice one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) for the House, with 50% due upon signing of this Agreement.
After: Bob will pay Alice $100,000 for the House, …. (Notice how the ".00" is omitted.)

And another:

Before: Alice will sell the house at 1234 Main Street to Bob. … [and later in the document:] Alice will not alter the house at 1234 Main Street before the Closing.
After: Alice will sell the house at 1234 Main Street (the "House") to Bob. … Alice will not alter the House before the Closing.

Sometimes, though, repetition can be used (cautiously) to emphasize a point; the mission, after all, is to educate and persuade (see § 7.2), not to slavishly follow rules.

3.2 Avoid false imperatives

A false imperative exists when a contract purports to impose an obligation, but without specifying who is responsible for carrying it out. "Let there be [whatever]"

To help identify a false imperative, ask: If this doesn't happen, who could be sued? Or, to adapt a tired business cliché: Whose throat do I choke?

Here's a before-and-after example:

Before: The apartment shall be regularly serviced by a professional pest-control service. [So whose job is it?]
After: Tenant [or, perhaps, Landlord?] is to cause the apart­ment to be serviced, at least once per calendar quarter, by a professional pest-control service.

For a discussion of false imperatives in the context of legislative drafting, see generally Jery Payne, The False Imperative, in The Legislative Lawyer (Dec. 2010).

3.3 Short, single-topic sentences and paragraphs

3.3.1 Introduction

You'll normally get a contract to signature sooner if you draft it as a series of short, single-issue sentences and paragraphs, because:

  • Short paragraphs and sentences can be reviewed more quickly.
  • Short paragraphs and sentences are easier to save for re-use, and later to snap into a new contract draft like Lego blocks, without inadvertently messing up some other contract section.
  • Short paragraphs and sentences are easier to edit during drafting and/or negotiation.
  • Short paragraphs and sentences reduce the temptation for the other side's reviewer to tweak more language than necessary — and that's a good thing, because language tweaks take time to negotiate, which in turn causes business people to get impatient and to blame "Legal" for delaying yet another done deal.

So: If a sentence or paragraph starts running long, seriously consider breaking it up.

Oh, and one major topic per paragraph, please. Too many contract drafters are guilty of mixing a variety of topics into a single paragraph (often with topics separated by “provided, that ….”). That just makes the paragraph all the harder for the other side's legal reviewer, which in turn will slow up getting the agreement to signature.

3.3.2 Subdivisions can help

Here's an example from the PlainLanguage.gov site, slightly modified:

Before: Except when this part provides for the granting, approval, or enforcement of leases and permits, the provisions in this part that authorize or require us to take certain actions extend to any tribe or tribal organization that is administering relevant programs or providing specific services under a contract or self-governance compact entered into under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. § 450f et seq.).
After: Any tribe or tribal organization that is administering programs or services under 25 CFR part 900:
(a) may administer the provisions in this part that authorize or require us to take certain actions; and
(b) may not administer the provisions of this part relating to the granting, approval, or enforcement of leases and permits.

Subdivisions can be internal to a paragraph, as seen in this slightly-modified example from the PlainLanguage.gov site:

Before: If any member of the board retires, the company, at the discretion of the board, and after notice from the chairman of the board to all the members of the board at least 30 days before executing this option, may buy, and the retiring member must sell, the member's interest in the company.
After: A retiring board member must sell his or her interest in the company to the company if (i) the chairman of the board gives notice to all board members at least 30 days in advance of the sale, and (ii) the board, in its discretion, approves the sale.

3.3.3 Actually, never mind. (A satire.)

Forget everything you just read; instead, follow the example of the drafters who wrote the warranty provision reproduced below, which is excerpted from a Collaborative Research and License Agreement between Pfizer and Rigel Pharmaceuticals. (For now, you don't need to read the provision other than to see how long it is.)

9.2.12 PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS. To the best of its knowledge (but without having conducted any special investigation), Rigel owns or possesses sufficient legal rights to all patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes (including technology currently licensed from Stanford University) necessary for its business as now conducted and as proposed to be conducted without any conflict with, or infringement of the rights of, others. Rigel currently licenses certain technology from Stanford University (the "Licensed Technology") on an "as is" basis, with no representation or warranty from Stanford University that such technology does not infringe the proprietary rights of others. To Rigel's knowledge, Rigel has not, as of the date hereof, received any claims from any third party alleging that the use of the Licensed Technology infringes the proprietary rights of such party. Except for agreements with its own employees or consultants and standard end-user license agreements, there are no outstanding options, licenses, or agreements of any kind relating to the foregoing, nor is Rigel bound by or a party to any options, licenses, or agreements of any kind with respect to the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes of any other person or entity, other than the license agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., Stanford University, SUNY, and BASF. Rigel has not received any communications alleging that Rigel has violated or, by conducting its business as proposed, would violate any of the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, or other proprietary rights or processes of any other person or entity. Rigel is not aware that any of its employees is obligated under any contract (including licenses, covenants, or commitments of any nature) or other agreement, or subject to any judgment, decree, or order of any court or administrative agency, that would interfere with the use of such employee's best efforts to promote the interests of Rigel or that would conflict with Rigel's business as proposed to be conducted. Neither the execution nor delivery of this Agreement, nor the carrying on of Rigel's business by the employees of Rigel, nor the conduct of Rigel's business as proposed, will, to the best of Rigel's knowledge, conflict with or result in a breach of the terms, conditions, or provisions of, or constitute a default under, any contract, covenant, or instrument under which any of such employees is now obligated. Rigel is not aware of any violation by a third party of any of Rigel's patents, licenses, trademarks, service marks, tradenames, copyrights, trade secrets or other proprietary rights.

Think about all the advantages of having such a long provision:

  • When your client reads a provision like the one above, she'll be impressed by your lawyering skills, and happy to be paying your fees to support the creation of a true work of art.
  • Your client isn't that interested in getting the deal to signature quickly, so it won't bother her that the dense verbiage will take longer for everyone to review, edit, and sign off on.
  • The other side's contract reviewer, lulled by the MEGO effect ("Mine Eyes Glaze Over"), might unwittingly skip over the problematic phrase that you (inadvertently?) buried in the middle of the paragraph. Don't fret — surely your counterpart won't think you were trying to pull a fast one on him.
  • Nor will your counterpart object to spending a lot of time puzzling over long sentences and paragraphs; it means more billable hours for him.
  • Your firm's managing partner will thank you for using such a dense writing style — using less white space in a contract draft means you need less paper and toner to print it out, and those things aren't free. And readability is such a vague, subjective thing. But the cost savings you achieve by printing out fewer pages? Now those are easily measured, and will be noticed and rewarded.
  • If the signed contract ever has to go to litigation, the judge's law clerk will be glad to have a fine specimen to study, to help fill those endless idle hours in chambers.

So by no means should you ever consider breaking up a long paragraph like the above into shorter ones.

Remember, lawyers have drafted contracts with long, hard-to-read paragraphs since time immemorial. That alone justifies their continuing to do so.

Bonus tip: Challenges to this or any other established practice can be met by closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and chanting, "we've always done it that way; we've always done it that way …."

3.4 Use active voice, mostly

Active voice gets to the point by putting the actor first. Look at the following before-and-after examples:

Before: A song was sung by her.
After: She sang a song.
Before: The part must have been broken by the handlers.
After: The handlers must have broken the part.

But sometimes passive voice is better, for example if the doer or actor of the action is unknown, unimportant, obvious, or better left unnamed:

  • The part was shipped on 1 June. (The actor is unimportant.)
  • Presidents are elected every four years. (The actor is obvious.)
  • Christmas has been scheduled as a workday. (The actor is better left unsaid.)

And clear, forceful, active-voice language might be inappropriate in diplomacy or in political negotiations. [DCT comment: The original USAF sentence said "… may be inappropriate," but it's better to stick with "might be."]

3.5 Streamline your sentences

It's easy to let a sentence get fat and sloppy:

Before:   They made the decision to give their approval.

After:   They decided to approve it.

Not quite the same:   They approved it.

3.6 Numbers; currencies; percentages

Spell out the numbers one to ten; use numbers for 11, 12, 13, etc. Both in the same sentence? Consider using just numbers. There will be four students per negotiating team. There are 21 students in the class. The quiz will contain between 8 and 12 questions.

As a general rule, don't start a sentence with numerals; either spell out the numerals in words or (preferably) rewrite the sentence.

Before: 42 was Douglas Adams's answer to The Ult­im­ate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
After: According to Douglas Adams, the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is … 42.

Large numbers? Use million, billion, etc. (but not thousand).

Before: More than 300,000,000 people live in the United States.
After: More than 300 million people live in the United States.

Don't spell out a number in words and then restate the number in numerals — there's too much danger of changing one but not the other (see also § 3.1).

Before: More than three hundred million (300,000,000) people live in the United States.
After: More than 300 million people live in the United States.
Before: Guarantor will pay Bank USD one million seven thousand dollars ($1,700,000.00).
After: (In a lawsuit Bank lost the difference, i.e., $693,000; see § 3.1.)

For domestic contracts, there's usually no need to say "in United States dollars." (You can put that in the Definitions & Usages section if you want.)

In international contracts, use ISO 4217 currency abbreviations such as USD, as in, "Buyer will pay USD $30 million." (The USD abbreviation goes where indicated, not after the numbers.)

It's OK to spell out dollar amounts, but it's customary to just use the numbers.

Before: Twenty million dollars
After: $20,000,000
Better still: $20 million

Omit zero cents unless relevant.

Before: Alice will pay Bob $5,000.00.
After: Alice will pay Bob $5,000.
Not: $5 thousand

Spell out a percentage if it's at the beginning of a sentence — or just use numbers and rewrite the sentence to avoid starting with the percentage

Before: 30% of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
After: Thirty percent of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
Or: Of the proceeds, 30% will be donated to charity.
Not: Thirty percent (30%) of the proceeds will be donated to charity (see § 3.1).

3.7 Parallelism in lists: Be consistent

Use a consistent pattern when making a list.

Before: The security policeman told us to observe the speed limit and we should dim our lights.
After: The security policeman told us to observe the speed limit and to dim our lights.
Before: The functions of a military staff are to advise the commander, transmit instructions, and imp­le­men­ta­tion of decisions. ["Advise" and "transmit" are verbs, while "implementation" is a noun.]
After: The functions of a military staff are to advise the commander, transmit instructions, and implement decisions. [The verb "implement" is stronger than the noun "implementation."]
Before: The functions of a military staff are to advise the commander, transmit instructions, and implement decisions. [Also: Passive voice.]
After: A military staff advises the commander; transmits his instructions; and implements his decisions.
Before: Universal military values include that we should act with integrity, dedication to duty, the belief that freedom is worth dying for and service before self.
After: Universal military values include commitment to integrity, dedication to duty, service before self, and the belief that freedom is worth dying for. [DCT comment: Here, semicolons might be better than commas.]

If one of the items in a list can't be written in the same grammatical structure, then consider placing it at the end of the sentence. In the last row above, beginning with "Universal military values," the phrase “the belief that freedom is worth dying for” doesn't match the three-word construction of the other items; placing that phrase at the end of the sentence improves overall readability.

If your sentence contains a series of items separated by commas [DCT comment: Or by semicolons], keep the grammatical construction similar—if two out of three items begin with a verb, then make the third item begin with a verb too.

Don't mix things and actions, statements and questions, or active and passive instructions.

Make ideas of equal importance look equal.

Here's another example, from the SEC's Plain English Handbook (at 34), slightly edited:

Before: If you want to buy shares in Fund X by mail, fill out and sign the Account Application form, making your check payable to “The X Fund,” and put your social security or taxpayer identification number on your check.
After: (with semicolons separating the clauses instead of commas) If you want to buy shares in Fund X by mail, fill out and sign the Account Application form; make your check payable to “The X Fund”; and put your social security or taxpayer identification number on your check.

And one more, from the same source:

Before: We invest the Fund’s assets in short-term money market securities to provide you with liquidity, protection of your investment, and high current income. After: We invest in short-term money market securities to provide you with liquidity; protect your investment, and generate high current income.

For this last example, the SEC Handbook points out that the Before sentence "is unparallel because its series is made up of two nouns and an adjective before the third noun. It’s also awkward because the verb provide is too closely paired with the nominalization protection." The After sentence uses verbs throughout, and also uses semicolons instead of commas.

3.8 Use industry-standard terminology

When you're drafting a contract, you'll want to try to avoid coining your own non-standard words or phrases to express technical or financial concepts. If there's an industry-standard term that fits what you're trying to say, use that term if you can.

• First, someday you might have to litigate the contract. You'll want to make it as easy as possible for the judge (and his or her law clerk) and the jurors to see the world the way your client does. In part, that means making it as easy as possible for them to understand the contract language.

The odds are that the witnesses who testify in deposition or at trial likely will use industry-standard terminology. So the chances are that the judge and jurors will have an easier time if the contract language is consistent with the terminology that the witnesses use—that is, if the contract "speaks" the same language as the witnesses.

• Second — and perhaps equally important — the business people on both sides are likely to be more comfortable with the contract if it uses familiar language, which could help make the negotiation go a bit more smoothly.

3.9 Omit needless words — but remember your mission

"Omit needless words" is a famous quotation from Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. Here are some examples of possibly-needless words, from the SEC's Plain English Handbook (slightly edited):

  • in order to : to
  • in the event that : if
  • subsequent to : after
  • prior to : before
  • despite the fact that : although
  • because of the fact that : because; since
  • in light of : ditto
  • owing to the fact that : ditto

But remember your mission: To educate, and possibly persuade, readers (see § 7.2). That’s why it can sometimes be helpful to (judiciously) record reasons and explanations in a contract, to educate later readers about why the neg­o­ti­a­tors agreed to certain things.

Certainly brevity in a contract is a  virtue, but it's far from the only one or even the most important one. Sometimes a few words of explanation or clarification (possibly in footnotes) can be cheap insurance.

3.10 But: Do what your supervising partner prefers

The above rules aren't ethical mandates. A new lawyer might find that her supervising partner prefers to write, for example, one million seven hundred thousand dollars ($1,700,000.00) instead of the simple $1.7 million recommended in § 3.1 above. Don't fight the partner over it — for purely-stylistic matters, just do it the way that the partner prefers. There'll be plenty of time to adjust your style as you get more experienced and more trusted to handle things on your own.

(In the meantime, of course, you'll have to be extra-careful not to make the kind of mistakes that can result from some of these stylistic practices, as discussed above.)

3.11 Bonus: Tips for plainer English

3.11.1 Improve the "flow" of the words

Before: … in a writing signed by the party sought to be bound …. After: … in a writing that is signed by the party sought to be bound ….

3.11.2 Modifier order might matter

Place modifiers correctly–"we want only the best" not "we only want the best."

3.11.3 Be careful when using a verb that doubles as a noun

Let's look again at an example from the SEC's Plain English Handbook (at 32). The word supplements can be a verb, but it can also be a noun, as in, dietary supplements. That can interrupt the flow of the sentence and slow down the reader's comprehension.

Before: The following description of the particular terms of the Notes offered hereby (referred to in the accompanying Prospectus as the “Debt Securities”) supplements, and to the extent inconsistent therewith replaces, the description of the general terms and provisions of the Debt Securities set forth in the Prospectus, to which description reference is hereby made.
After: * This document describes the terms of these notes in greater detail than our prospectus. It might provide information that differs from our prospectus. If the information in this document does differ from our prospectus, please rely on the information in this document.

3.11.4 Gobbledygook

Adapted from the PlainLanguage.gov site:

Before: Consultation from respondents was obtained to determine the estimated burden.
After: We consulted with respondents to estimate the burden.

3.11.5 Gobbledygook (2)

Adapted from the PlainLanguage.gov site:

Before: The amount of expenses reimbursed to a claimant under this subpart shall be reduced by any amount that the claimant receives from a collateral source in connection with the same act of international terrorism. In cases in which a claimant receives reimbursement under this subpart for expenses that also will or may be reimbursed from another source, the claimant shall subrogate the United States to the claim for payment from the collateral source up to the amount for which the claimant was reimbursed under this subpart.
After: If another source pays you, then we will reduce our payment by that amount. If we pay you, and another source also pays you for the same expenses, then you must repay us the amount that we paid you.

3.11.6 Gobbledygook (3)

From the PlainLanguage.gov site:

Before: When a filing is prescribed to be filed with more than one of the foregoing, the filing shall be deemed filed as of the day the last one actually receives the same.
After: A document is considered "filed" only when all parties that are supposed to receive the document have actually received it.

4 Simplifying a wall of text (WOT), step by step

Introduction

A great way to learn to write good contract language is to practice rewriting problematic language, especially the long, complicated paragraphs that are known as "walls of text," a term that could appropriately be shortened to WOT — perhaps even with a question mark, as in, WOT? To that end, this book contains numerous WOT provisions from real-world contracts; most of the examples are drawn from actual contracts filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available via the SEC's EDGAR Web site.

Rewriting a wall-of-text contract provision is a skill that contract professionals use all the time. Most contract professionals spend much of their time reviewing and revising others' contract drafts, many of which include WOT provisions.

A reviewer should always consider breaking up any WOT provision, for two reasons:

  • To reduce the risk of the MEGO factor (Mine Eyes Glaze Over), and
  • to make the provision easier for the client to read.

And in any case, few drafters start a project by crafting language from scratch — instead, they look for one or more existing contracts (or drafts) and then copy and revise language to match their current needs, and some of that language might be in WOT form.

(This learn-by-rewriting approach could be thought of as a form of "deliberate practice," a concept originated by Professor K. Anders Ericsson. See generally, e.g., K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely, The Making of an Expert, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007.)

Here's one example of a WOT provision, excerpted from a Collaborative Research and License Agreement between Pfizer and Rigel Pharmaceuticals. (You don't need to read the provision other than to see how long it is.)

9.2.12 PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS. To the best of its knowledge (but without having conducted any special investigation), Rigel owns or possesses sufficient legal rights to all patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes (including technology currently licensed from Stanford University) necessary for its business as now conducted and as proposed to be conducted without any conflict with, or infringement of the rights of, others. Rigel currently licenses certain technology from Stanford University (the "Licensed Technology") on an "as is" basis, with no representation or warranty from Stanford University that such technology does not infringe the proprietary rights of others. To Rigel's knowledge, Rigel has not, as of the date hereof, received any claims from any third party alleging that the use of the Licensed Technology infringes the proprietary rights of such party. Except for agreements with its own employees or consultants and standard end-user license agreements, there are no outstanding options, licenses, or agreements of any kind relating to the foregoing, nor is Rigel bound by or a party to any options, licenses, or agreements of any kind with respect to the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, licenses, information, and proprietary rights and processes of any other person or entity, other than the license agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., Stanford University, SUNY, and BASF. Rigel has not received any communications alleging that Rigel has violated or, by conducting its business as proposed, would violate any of the patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, or other proprietary rights or processes of any other person or entity. Rigel is not aware that any of its employees is obligated under any contract (including licenses, covenants, or commitments of any nature) or other agreement, or subject to any judgment, decree, or order of any court or administrative agency, that would interfere with the use of such employee's best efforts to promote the interests of Rigel or that would conflict with Rigel's business as proposed to be conducted. Neither the execution nor delivery of this Agreement, nor the carrying on of Rigel's business by the employees of Rigel, nor the conduct of Rigel's business as proposed, will, to the best of Rigel's knowledge, conflict with or result in a breach of the terms, conditions, or provisions of, or constitute a default under, any contract, covenant, or instrument under which any of such employees is now obligated. Rigel is not aware of any violation by a third party of any of Rigel's patents, licenses, trademarks, service marks, tradenames, copyrights, trade secrets or other proprietary rights.

4.1 Split up multiple-sentence paragraphs

The first thing to do when encountering a wall-of-text provision is to break each sentence into a separate paragraph.

(EXCEPTION: Multiple, short, sentences concerning a single topic might be left in a single paragraph.)

NOTE: You might not want to bother numbering the new separate paragraphs just yet, although the "after" examples below are generally numbered for convenient reference.

Before:

The Premises as furnished by Landlord consist of the improvements as they exist as of the Effective Date and Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on or to any portion of the Premises. Prior to entering into this Lease, Tenant has made a thorough and independent examination of the Premises and all matters related to Tenant’s decision to enter into this Lease. Tenant is thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the Premises and is satisfied that it is in an acceptable condition and meet Tenant’s needs. Tenant does not rely on, and Landlord does not make, any express or implied representations or warranties as to any matters including, without limitation, (a) the physical condition of the Premises including without limitation the structural components of any improvements or any building systems within or serving the improvements (including without limitation indoor air quality), (b) the existence, quality, adequacy or availability of utilities serving the Premises or any portion thereof, (c) the use, habitability, merchantability, fitness or suitability of the Premises for Tenant’s intended use, (d) the likelihood of deriving business from Tenant’s location or the economic feasibility of Tenant’s business, (e) Hazardous Materials on, in, under or around the Premises, (f) zoning, entitlements or any laws, ordinances or regulations which may apply to Tenant’s use of the Premises or business operations, or (g) any other matter whatsoever. Tenant has satisfied itself as to such suitability and other pertinent matters by Tenant’s own inquiries and tests into all matters relevant in determining whether to enter into this Lease. Tenant accepts the Premises in their existing “AS-IS”, “WHERE-IS” condition, and “WITH ALL FAULTS”. Tenant shall, by entering into and occupying the Premises, be deemed to have accepted the Premises and to have acknowledged that the same are in good order, condition and repair in all respects. Upon the Commencement Date, tenant shall execute and deliver to Landlord the Acceptance Form attached hereto as Exhibit C.

After:

(a)     The Premises as furnished by Landlord consist of the improvements as they exist as of the Effective Date.

(b)     Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on or to any portion of the Premises.

(c)     Prior to entering into this Lease, Tenant has made a thorough and independent examination of the Premises and all matters related to Tenant’s decision to enter into this Lease.

(d)     Tenant is thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the Premises and is satisfied that it is in an acceptable condition and meet Tenant’s needs.

(e)     Tenant does not rely on, and Landlord does not make, any express or implied representations or warranties as to any matters including, without limitation,

(1)     the physical condition of the Premises including without limitation the structural components of any improvements or any building systems within or serving the improvements (including without limitation indoor air quality),

(2)     the existence, quality, adequacy or availability of utilities serving the Premises or any portion thereof,

(3)     the use, habitability, merchantability, fitness or suitability of the Premises for Tenant’s intended use,

(4)     the likelihood of deriving business from Tenant’s location or the economic feasibility of Tenant’s business,

(5)     Hazardous Materials on, in, under or around the Premises,

(6)     zoning, entitlements or any laws, ordinances or regulations which may apply to Tenant’s use of the Premises or business operations, or

(7)     any other matter whatsoever.

(f)     Tenant has satisfied itself as to such suitability and other pertinent matters by Tenant’s own inquiries and tests into all matters relevant in determining whether to enter into this Lease.

(g)     Tenant accepts the Premises in their existing “AS-IS”, “WHERE-IS” condition, and “WITH ALL FAULTS”.

(h)     Tenant shall, by entering into and occupying the Premises, be deemed to have accepted the Premises and to have acknowledged that the same are in good order, condition and repair in all respects.

(i)     Upon the Commencement Date, tenant shall execute and deliver to Landlord the Acceptance Form attached hereto as Exhibit C.

ALTERNATIVE: Add bracketed pilcrows [¶] to help the reader's eye locate the beginnings of sentences:

The Premises as furnished by Landlord consist of the improvements as they exist as of the Effective Date and Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on or to any portion of the Premises. [¶] Prior to entering into this Lease, Tenant has made a thorough and independent examination of the Premises and all matters related to Tenant’s decision to enter into this Lease. [¶] Tenant is thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the Premises and is satisfied that it is in an acceptable condition and meet Tenant’s needs. …

4.2 Next: Split up multiple-topic paragraphs

When a paragraph covers multiple topics, even if closely related: Consider breaking up those topics into separate paragraphs each as a complete sentence. (You might have to add transitional language to "help lead the reader by the hand along the path.")

Before:

The Premises as furnished by Landlord consist of the improvements as they exist as of the Effective Date and Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on or to any portion of the Premises.

After:

(a) The Premises as furnished by Landlord consist of the improvements as they exist as of the Effective Date. and

(b) Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on[,] or to any portion of[,] the Premises.

4.3 Watch out for parentheticals addressing separate topics

Before:

The number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be equal to the product (rounded up to the nearest whole share unless otherwise agreed by Seller and Purchaser) of (A) the number of shares of Seller Common Stock subject to the cor­res­p­ond­ing Seller RSU Award immediately prior to the Closing and (B) the Purchaser Ratio ….

After:

(a) The number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be equal to the product (rounded up to the nearest whole share unless otherwise agreed by Seller and Purchaser) of (A) the number of shares of Seller Common Stock subject to the cor­res­p­ond­ing Seller RSU Award immediately prior to the Closing and (B) the Purchaser Ratio ….

(b) The number of shares computed in accordance with subdivision (a) is to be rounded up ….

ALTERNATIVE, with em-dashes in lieu of parentheses for greater visibility:—

The number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be equal to the product — rounded up to the nearest whole share unless otherwise agreed by Seller and Purchaser — of (A) the number of shares ….

4.4 Judiciously add punctuation to help guide the reader's eye

Make a long sentence easier to grasp by judiciously inserting commas; semi-colons; parentheses; and em-dashes.

Before:

Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on or to any portion of the Premises.

After:

Landlord shall have no obligation for construction work or improvements on[,] or to any portion of[,] the Premises.

See also the alternative of selectively replacing parentheses with em-dashes.

4.5 Next: Spin off "provided that …." language

Seriously consider breaking off "provided that" language into its own paragraph — possibly using terms such as "except as otherwise provided below …" or comparable language, as shown in the example below.

Before:

The number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be equal to the product … of (A) the number of shares of Seller Common Stock subject to the corresponding Seller RSU Award immediately prior to the Closing and (B) the Purchaser Ratio; provided that, with respect to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting (A) with respect to any performance year that includes the Closing Date, the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be based on target-level performance, and such Purchaser RSU Awards shall not be subject to performance-based vesting criteria for such performance year, and (B) with respect to any performance year that commences after the Closing Date, Purchaser or its Affiliates shall establish the applicable performance goals following the Closing.

After:

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) below, the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be equal to the product … of (A) the number of shares of Seller Common Stock ….

(b) With respect to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting ….

4.6 Sometimes a bit of repetition can add clarity

In the long, single-sentence, "Before" version below, note how there are two different "branches," labeled with "(A)" and "(B)." The "After" version breaks up those branches into two different subdivisions.

Before:

[W]ith respect to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting (A) with respect to any performance year that includes the Closing Date, the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be based on target-level performance, and such Purchaser RSU Awards shall not be subject to performance-based vesting criteria for such performance year, and (B) with respect to any performance year that commences after the Closing Date, Purchaser or its Affiliates shall establish the applicable performance goals following the Closing.

After:

(a)     Case 1:

(1)     This subdivision applies to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting with respect to any performance year that includes the Closing Date.

(2)     For that Seller RSU Award: (A) the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be based on target-level performance; and (B) such Purchaser RSU Awards shall not be subject to performance-based vesting criteria for such performance year.

(b)     Case 2:

(1)     This subdivision applies to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting with respect to any performance year that commences after the Closing Date.

(2)     For that Seller RSU Award: Purchaser or its Affiliates shall establish the applicable performance goals following the Closing.

4.7 Consider using a more-oral narrative style to break up long sentences

Give some thought to setting the stage for a long contract provision to provide some context for the reader.

Before:

[W]ith respect to any Seller RSU Award that is subject to performance-based vesting (A) with respect to any performance year that includes the Closing Date, the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall be based on target-level performance, and such Purchaser RSU Awards shall not be subject to performance-based vesting criteria for such performance year, and (B) with respect to any performance year that commences after the Closing Date, Purchaser or its Affiliates shall establish the applicable performance goals following the Closing.

After:

(a) Some Seller RSU Awards might be subject to performance-based vesting for which the relevant performance year includes the Closing Date. For those awards:

(1) the number of shares of Purchaser Common Stock subject to each Purchaser RSU Award shall is to be based on target-level performance; and

(2) such those Purchaser RSU Awards shall are not to be subject to performance-based vesting criteria for such performance year.

(b) Other Seller RSU Awards might be subject to performance-based vesting for which the relevant performance year commences begins after the Closing Date. For those awards, Purchaser or its Affiliates shall will establish the applicable performance goals following the Closing.

4.8 When a sentence includes an "if … then …" statement

Be sure that the word "then" is included as a visual guide at the beginning of the "then" portion. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it's a useful rule of thumb.

Before:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. If Tenant shall fail or neglect to do or perform any covenant or condition required under this Lease and such failure shall not be cured within any applicable grace period, Landlord may, on five (5) business days written notice to Tenant, but shall not be required to, make any payment payable by Tenant hereunder, discharge any lien, take out, pay for and maintain any insurance required hereunder, or do or perform or cause to be done or performed any such other act or thing (entering upon the Premises for such purposes, if Landlord shall so elect), and Landlord shall not be or be held liable or in any way responsible for any loss, disturbance, inconvenience, annoyance or damage resulting to Tenant on account thereof.

After:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. If Tenant shall fail or neglect to do or perform any covenant or condition required under this Lease and such failure shall not be cured within any applicable grace period, then Landlord may ….

EVEN BETTER: If an if-then sentence is long and/or complicated, then consider writing the if-then labels as follows: "IF: …; AND: …; THEN: …." Note especially the use of all-caps, colons, and semi-colons.

Before:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. If Tenant shall fail or neglect to do or perform any covenant or condition required under this Lease and such failure shall not be cured within any applicable grace period, Landlord may, on five (5) business days written notice to Tenant, but shall not be required to, make any payment payable by Tenant hereunder, discharge any lien, take out, pay for and maintain any insurance required hereunder, or do or perform or cause to be done or performed any such other act or thing (entering upon the Premises for such purposes, if Landlord shall so elect), and Landlord shall not be or be held liable or in any way responsible for any loss, disturbance, inconvenience, annoyance or damage resulting to Tenant on account thereof.

After:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. IF: Tenant shall fail or neglect to do or perform any covenant or condition required under this Lease; AND: Such failure shall not be is not cured within any applicable grace period; THEN: Landlord may, on five (5) five business days written notice to Tenant, ….

4.9 … Or: Spin off the conditions into a preamble

When confronted with a long if-then provision, consider turning the "if" portion into a preamble for the section, with the "then" part(s) being set forth as subdivisions.

Before:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. If Tenant shall fail or neglect to do or perform any covenant or condition required under this Lease and such failure shall not be cured within any applicable grace period, Landlord may, on five (5) business days written notice to Tenant, but shall not be required to, make any payment payable by Tenant hereunder, discharge any lien, take out, pay for and maintain any insurance required hereunder, or do or perform or cause to be done or performed any such other act or thing (entering upon the Premises for such purposes, if Landlord shall so elect), and Landlord shall not be or be held liable or in any way responsible for any loss, disturbance, inconvenience, annoyance or damage resulting to Tenant on account thereof.

After:

15.5 Landlord’s Right to Cure. IF: Tenant (i) fails to do anything required by this Agreement and (ii) does not cure the failure within the applicable grace period; THEN: The following will apply:—

(a) Landlord may, without limitation:

(1) make any payment payable by Tenant under this Agreement:

(2) discharge any lien;

(3) take out, pay for[,] and maintain any insurance required under this Agreement; and/or

(4) take (or cause to be taken) any other necessary or appropriate action.

(b) Landlord must give Tenant five business days' written notice to Tenant before taking any action under subdivision (a).

(c) This Agreement does not require Landlord to take any action under subdivision (a).

(d) Tenant will not attempt to hold Landlord responsible or liable for any loss, disturbance, inconvenience, annoyance or damage that might result to Tenant arising from any action by Landlord under subdivision (a).

4.10 When any paragraph contains a "laundry list"

Consider spinning off a long laundry list into separate subdivisions — possibly as a defined term.

Before:

Tenant does not rely on, and Landlord does not make, any express or implied representations or warranties as to any matters including, without limitation, (a) the physical condition of the Premises including without limitation the structural components of any improvements or any building systems within or serving the improvements (including without limitation indoor air quality), (b) the existence, quality, adequacy or availability of utilities serving the Premises or any portion thereof, (c) the use, habitability, merchantability, fitness or suitability of the Premises for Tenant’s intended use, (d) the likelihood of deriving business from Tenant’s location or the economic feasibility of Tenant’s business, (e) Hazardous Materials on, in, under or around the Premises, (f) zoning, entitlements or any laws, ordinances or regulations which may apply to Tenant’s use of the Premises or business operations, or (g) any other matter whatsoever.

AFTER (1):

Tenant does not rely on, and Landlord does not make, any express or implied representations or warranties as to any matters including, without limitation, the following:

(1) the structural components of any improvements or any building systems within or serving the improvements (including without limitation indoor air quality);

(2) any other aspect of the physical condition of the Premises;

(3) the existence, quality, adequacy or availability of utilities serving the Premises or any portion thereof,

(4) the use, habitability, merchantability, fitness or suitability of the Premises for Tenant’s intended use,

(5) the likelihood of deriving business from Tenant’s location or the economic feasibility of Tenant’s business,

(6) Hazardous Materials on, in, under or around the Premises, or

(7) zoning, entitlements or any laws, ordinances or regulations which may apply to Tenant’s use of the Premises or business operations.

AFTER (2): If the above list will be used more than once, turn it into a defined term as a subdivision of the section, (or alternatively in the main Definitions article if appropriate):

(a) Tenant does not rely on, and Landlord does not make, any express or implied representations or warranties as to any matters including, without limitation, the Premises Condition (defined below).

(b) "Premises Condition" refers to one or more of the following:

(1) the physical condition of the Premises including without limitation the structural components of any improvements or any building systems within or serving the improvements (including without limitation indoor air quality),

(2) the existence, quality, adequacy or availability of utilities serving the Premises or any portion thereof,

(3) the use, habitability, merchantability, fitness or suitability of the Premises for Tenant’s intended use,

(4) the likelihood of deriving business from Tenant’s location or the economic feasibility of Tenant’s business,

(5) Hazardous Materials on, in, under or around the Premises, and

(6) zoning, entitlements or any laws, ordinances or regulations which may apply to Tenant’s use of the Premises or business operations.

4.11 Spin off lengthy exceptions into separate paragraphs

Time-pressured drafters sometimes keep stuffing exceptions and "provided, that" verbiage into a paragraph as though it were a sausage. That can make life difficult for reviewers and other readers, as seen in the following Before example:

Before:

15.1 Event of Default. The occurrence of any of the following shall be an “Event of Default” on the part of Tenant: …

*  *  * 

(2) Failure to perform any other covenant, condition or requirement of this Lease when such failure shall continue for a period of thirty (30) days after written notice thereof from Landlord to Tenant; provided that if the nature of the default is such that more than thirty (30) days are reasonably required for its cure, then an Event of Default shall not be deemed to have occurred if Tenant shall commence such cure within said thirty (30) day period and thereafter diligently and continuously prosecute such cure to completion. …

A better approach is to

After:

15.1 Event of Default. The occurrence of any of the following shall will be an “Event of Default” on the part of Tenant: …

*  *  * 

(2) Except as provided in subdivision (b) below, failure to perform any other covenant, condition[,] or requirement of this Lease [Agreement] when such if the failure shall continue continues for a period of thirty (30) 30 days after written notice thereof of the failure from Landlord to Tenant (the "Cure Period");

(c) Exception: IF: The nature of the default is such that more than 30 days are reasonably required to cure it; THEN: An Event of Default will not be deemed to have occurred if Tenant shall commence begins to cure the default ….

And another example:

Before:

15.6 Landlord’s Default. Landlord shall be in default under this Lease if Landlord fails to perform obligations required of Landlord within thirty (30) days after written notice by Tenant to Landlord and to the holder of any first mortgage or deed of trust covering the Premises whose name and address shall have heretofore been furnished to Tenant in writing, specifying wherein Landlord has failed to perform such obligations; provided, however, that if the nature of Landlord’s obligations is such that more than thirty (30) days are required for performance, then Landlord shall not be in default if Landlord commences performance within such thirty (30) day period and thereafter diligently prosecutes the same to completion. Tenant shall be entitled to actual (but not consequential) damages in the event of an uncured default by Landlord, but the provisions of Article 17 shall apply to any Landlord default and Tenant shall not have the right to terminate this Lease as a result of a Landlord default.

After:

15.6 Landlord’s Default.

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c), Landlord will be in default under this Lease Agreement if Landlord fails to perform its obligations within 30 days after written notice by Tenant to Landlord.

(b) Any notice under subdivision (a) must provide reasonable detail about Landlord's failure to perform .

(c) If the nature of Landlord’s relevant obligation(s) is such that more than 30 days are required for performance, then Landlord will not be in default if Landlord begins performance within that 30-day period and thereafter diligently prosecutes the same to completion.

(d) Tenant shall be entitled to actual (but not consequential) damages in the event of an uncured default by Landlord, but the provisions of Article 17 shall apply to any Landlord default and Tenant shall not have the right to terminate this Lease as a result of a Landlord default.

(b) IF: Landlord has provided Tenant with the name and address of the holder of a first mortgage or deed of covering the Premises; THEN: Tenant must send, to that holder, a copy of any notice under subdivision (a).

4.12 Hunt down duplication

Look for and eliminate any duplication of substantive terms in a draft agreement; as discussed in [TO DO: Link: DRY], failing to do so ended up costing a bank $693,000. This is especially important because, as the draft agreement evolves during the parties' negotiations, the duplicate terms could end up being revised differently — and inconsistently.

4.13 Actually, never mind. (A satire.)

Forget everything you just read; instead, think about all the advantages of having your contract provisions go on and on:

  • When your client reads a long provision, she'll be impressed by your lawyering skills, and happy to be paying your fees to support the creation of a true work of art.
  • Your client isn't that interested in getting the deal to signature quickly, so it won't bother her that the dense verbiage will take longer for everyone to review, edit, and sign off on.
  • The other side's contract reviewer, lulled by the MEGO effect ("Mine Eyes Glaze Over"), might unwittingly skip over the problematic phrase that you (inadvertently?) buried in the middle of the paragraph. Don't fret — surely your counterpart won't think you were trying to pull a fast one on him.
  • Nor will your counterpart object to spending a lot of time puzzling over long sentences and paragraphs; it means more billable hours for him.
  • Your firm's managing partner will thank you for using such a dense writing style — using less white space in a contract draft means you need less paper and toner to print it out, and those things aren't free. And readability is such a vague, subjective thing. But the cost savings you achieve by printing out fewer pages? Now those are easily measured, and will be noticed and rewarded.
  • If the signed contract ever has to go to litigation, the judge's law clerk will be glad to have a fine specimen to study, to help fill those endless idle hours in chambers.

So by no means should you ever consider breaking up a long paragraph into shorter ones.

Remember, lawyers have drafted contracts with long, hard-to-read paragraphs since time immemorial. That alone justifies their continuing to do so.

Bonus tip: Challenges to this or any other established practice can be met by closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and chanting, "we've always done it that way; we've always done it that way …."

4.14 Apply the same step-by-step rewriting skills to your own drafts

As you continue to practice the rewriting skills summarized above, you'll find that you unconsciously do the same kinds of rewriting in your own drafting work. That will result in your producing clearer, more-understandable drafts, which in turn will help you to help your clients get workable contracts to signature sooner.

5 The bare necessities

In American law schools, students learn very early that under the Statute of Frauds, many and even most business contracts must take the form of a signed writing — but also that such a writing can be enforceable in court even if it's not terribly detailed.

5.1 To close more business, a GE unit streamlined its contract forms

Contract forms tend to grow by accretion, as lawyers think of issues that could arise. As a result, what a commenter said about politicians fearful of voter backlash might apply equally to contract drafters fearful of client finger-pointing: “As with mass incarceration, efforts to reform airport security are hamstrung by politicians and administrators [read: lawyers] who would prefer to inflict hassle on millions than be caught making one mistake.” Henry Grabar, Terminal: How the Airport Came to Embody Our National Psychosis (Slate.com 2017).

Not surprisingly, the legal department of one General Electric business unit found that its "comprehensive" contract documents were sabotaging its ability to close sales deals:

When GE Aviation combined its three digital businesses into a single Digital Solutions unit nearly four years ago, their salespeople were eager to speed up the growth they had seen in the years before the move. They found plenty of enthusiastic customers, but they struggled to close their deals.

The reason: Customers often needed to review and sign contracts more than 100 pages long before they could start doing business.

The new business inherited seven different contracts from the three units. The clunky documents were loaded with legalese, redundancies, archaic words and wordy attempts to cover every imaginable legal [sic]. No wonder they languished unread for months.

"We would call, and customers would say, 'I can’t get through this,'" says Karen Thompson, Digital Solutions contracts leader at GE Aviation. “And that was before they even sent it to their legal team!

"Who is going to pick up a 100-plus-page document and sort through it to find language they disagree with? We were having trouble moving past that part to what we needed to do, which was sell our services.”

For those customers who did read the contract, negotiations would drag on and on.

Kristin Kloberdanz, Honey, I Shrunk The Contract: How Plain English Is Helping GE Keep Its Business Humming, (GE.com 2017) (extra paragraphing added).

What was a surprise was that the legal department actually did something about i. The general counsel of that GE business unit described his team's motivations in a Harvard Business Review article:

… For the most part, the contracts used in business are long, poorly structured, and full of unnecessary and incomprehensible language. …

A contract should not take countless hours to negotiate. Business leaders should not have to call an attorney to interpret an agreement that they are expected to administer.

We should live in a world where contracts are written in accessible language—where potential business partners can sit down over a short lunch without their lawyers and read, truly understand, and feel comfortable signing a contract. A world where disputes caused by ambiguity disappear.

Shawn Burton, The Case for Plain-Language Contracts, Harv. Bus. Rev., Jan.-Feb. 2018, at 134 (extra paragraphing added). Burton provides several examples of streamlined provisions, such as the following revision:

Before:

Customer shall indemnify, defend, and hold Company harmless from any and all claims, suits, actions, liabilities, damages and costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs, incurred by Company arising from or based upon (a) any actual or alleged infringement of any United States patents, copyright, or other intellectual property right of a third party, attributable to Customer’s use of the licensed System with other software, hardware or configuration not either provided by Company or specified in Exhibit D.3, (b) any data, information, technology, system or other Confidential Information disclosed or made available by Customer to Company under this Agreement, (c) the use, operation, maintenance, repair, safety, regulatory compliance or performance of any aircraft owned, leased, operated, or maintained by Customer of [sic; or] (d) any use, by Customer or by a third party to whom Customer has provided the information, of Customer’s Flight Data, the System, or information generated by the System.

After:

If an arbitrator finds that this contract was breached and losses were suffered because of that breach, the breaching party will compensate the non-breaching party for such losses or provide the remedies specified in Section 8 if Section 8 is breached.

(DCT comment: Substantively, the After version arguably has some minor problems, but what's of interest here is how the drafters were able to streamline the wall-of-text ("WOT") provision pretty significantly.)

5.2 A countersigned letter can be enough …

A personal story: Not long after I started work as an associate at Arnold, White & Durkee, the senior partner, Tom Arnold,* called me to his office. Tom asked me to draft a confidentiality agreement for a friend of his, “Bill,” who was going to be disclosing a business plan to his (Bill’s) friend, “Jim.”

* Tom founded Arnold, White & Durkee, which grew to become what we believed was the second-largest intellectual property boutique in the United States, based in Houston with a total of some 150 lawyers in six cities. Tom was a true gentleman; a mentor; a friend; and everything a lawyer should be.

Tom instructed me not to draft a conventional contract. Instead, the confidentiality agreement was to take the form of a short letter along approximately the following lines:

Dear Jim:

This confirms that I will be telling you about my plans to go into business [raising tribbles, let's say] so that you can evaluate whether you want to invest in the business with me.

You agree that unless I say it's OK in writing, (1) you won’t disclose what I tell you about my plans to anyone else, and (2) you won’t use that information yourself for any other purpose.

You won't be under this obligation, though, to the extent that (A) the information in question has become public, or (B) you get the information from another source that has legitimately acquired or developed the information itself.

If this is agreeable, please countersign the enclosed copy of this letter and return it to me. I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Bill

When I’d prepared the draft, I asked Tom: Isn’t this pretty sparse?

Tom replied that yes, it was indeed sparse — but:

  • The countersigned letter would be a binding, enforceable, and workable contract, one that Bill could use to get his case in front of a jury (i.e., survive a motion to dismiss) in the unlikely event that his friend Jim double-crossed him; and
  • At least equally important: Bill's friend Jim would almost certainly countersign the letter immediately, without asking his lawyer to review the document, which would have delayed things.

That early experience was an eye-opener. It drove home the lesson that contracts aren’t magical written incantations: they’re just simple statements of simple things.

The experience was also my first real-world exposure to a fundamental truth: Business people — i.e., clients — are often far more interested in being able to sign an "OK" contract now than they are in signing a supposedly-better contract weeks or in the future.

As another example, see the 2006 letter agreement for consulting services between Ford Motor Company and British financial wizard Sir John Bond (for USD $25,000 per day), at https://goo.gl/cXMrX5 (archive.org):

[Letterhead for Secretary of Ford Motor Company]

September 13, 2006

Sir John Bond
[Address redacted]

Dear Sir John:

This letter will confirm our discussions on the terms of your consultancy to Ford Motor Company:

  • We have agreed that you will be a consultant to Ford Motor Company and William Clay Ford, Jr., generally spending the whole of the Tuesday and the morning of the Wednesday preceding each of our seven regular Board of Directors meetings in consultation with senior management of Ford Motor Credit Company and senior finance management of Ford.
  • We will compensate you at the rate of $25,000 per day, which amount would be pro-rated for each Wednesday that you consult with Company management. Accordingly, you would receive $37,500 for each Tuesday/Wednesday that you consult with Company management, or $262,500 per 12 month period. Any additional consulting and resulting compensation would have to be specifically agreed between you and Ford. We will pay you in arrears at the end of each calendar quarter. Of course, we will also reimburse you for normal and customary travel and business expenses incurred by you in providing the consulting services upon submission of appropriate documentation. As a member of the Board of Directors of Ford, you also will continue to receive the fees paid and other benefits provided to non-employee directors.
  • We will provide you with office, computer and other incidental support when in Dearborn, Michigan.
  • Either you or Ford can terminate the consulting arrangement at any time, in your or Ford's sole discretion, in which event Ford will pay you for consulting services previously rendered and reimburse you for travel and business expenses previously incurred.
  • The effective date of our agreement shall be the date of your concurrence, below; however, the Company shall pay you in accordance with this agreement for the time you spent consulting with Ford executives in connection with the July meeting of the Board of Directors.
  • Your signature, below, will also confirm your resignation from the Compensation Committee and the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Company.

If you concur in the consulting arrangement as described above, please so indicate by signing and dating this letter at the space below.

[Signature blocks]

(Optional reading:) For more on this consulting agreement, see Rob Cox, The $25,000 Bond (TheBreakingNews.com 2006).

5.3 … and even a text message might be sufficient

In a federal-court lawsuit in Florida (decided under Delaware law), a text-message exchange served as a binding agreement to modify an existing contract — and that agreed modification went on to cost one of the parties more than a million dollars. In that case:

  • An Internet advertising agency had a contract to supply online sales leads to its client, a manufacturer of electronic cigarettes.
  • The contract limited the client's payment obligation to 200 leads per day.
  • But a vice-president of marketing at the client had a text-message conversation with the account manager at the Internet ad agency; the operative part of the conversation was as follows:

[Account manager:] We can do 2000 orders/day by Friday if I have your blessing

[Client VP:] NO LIMIT

[Account manager:] awesome!

But then when ad agency billed the client for the higher number of sales orders, the client didn't pay, and so the ad agency sued and won a judgment for $1,240,655, because:

  • the account manager's text proposing 2,000 orders per day constituted an offer to modify the contract to modify the 200-per-day limit;
  • the manufacturer's vice president's "NO LIMIT" response constituted a counteroffer; and
  • the account manager accepted the counteroffer with the "awesome!" reply.

The court therefore held that the text-message exchange was a binding agreement to modify the existing contract. CX Digital Media, Inc. v. Smoking Everywhere, Inc., No. 09-62020-CIV, slip op. at 8, 17-18 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 23, 2011).

5.4 The Pathclearer approach uses letter agreements and business motivations

(Optional reading:) It's worth your time to read a coldly-realistic article about the drawbacks of long, detailed contracts in contrast to the benefits of the Pathclearer approach developed by in-house counsel at Scottish & Newcastle, a brewery in the UK. The Pathclearer approach involves using short letter agreements instead of long, complicated contracts, and relying on commercial motivations — i.e., each party's ability to walk away, coupled with the desire to retain a good business partner — and the general law to fill in any gaps that might be left. See Steve Weatherley, Pathclearer: A more commercial approach to drafting commercial contracts, Practical L. Co. L. Dept. Qtrly, Oct.-Dec. 2005, at 40 (emphasis added).

6 Finding and eliminating ambiguity

6.1 Introduction

Ambiguity is arguably the contract drafter's worst sin. A contract term is ambiguous if it is susceptible to two or more plausible interpretations; such a term can lead to enormous expense: In litigation, creative trial counsel, exercising 20-20 hindsight, can be quite skilled at proposing alternative meanings to language that the drafters imagined was crystal clear.

Here's a simple example from a hypothetical lease agreement: Tenant will completely vacate the Premises no later than 12 midnight on December 15; Tenant's failure to do so will be a material breach of this Agreement. Suppose that at 10:00 a.m. on December 15, Tenant is still occupying the Premises. Question: Does Tenant still have 14 hours left in which to finish moving out, or is Tenant already in material breach? And then: What if Landlord had re-leased the premises to a new tenant with December 15 as the agreed move-in date?

Now for a real-world example: In the Offshore Drilling v. Gulf Copper case, the owner of an off-shore drilling rig and a maintenance contractor disputed whether the contractor had had “control” of the rig at the time that the rig was damaged by fire and thus whether the contractor was contractually obligated to indemnify the owner. The term control is vague — vagueness can be thought of as a type of ambiguity, as discussed below — and so the parties had to litigate the meaning of the term. See Offshore Drilling Co. v. Gulf Copper & Mfg. Corp., 604 F.3d 221 (5th Cir. 2010) (affirming summary judgment in relevant part).

In contrast to ambiguous terms, unambiguous provisions are a Good Thing because:

  • Unambiguous language tends not to lead to disputes between the parties in the first place — although that's far from a universal rule.
  • If a dispute does arise over an unambiguous provision, the judge will often decide the case quickly (e.g., on a motion for summary judgment). That's because interpretation of an unambiguous contract term is a question of law for the court.

So: Spotting and fixing ambiguities before the contract is signed should be a prime goal of contract drafters and reviewers.

Ambiguities aren't necessarily fatal, because the law has rules for resolving them, as discussed below. But to borrow a phrase from a former student (in a different context): "That's a conversation I don't want to have."

6.2 A brief review of contract interpretation

In a 2015 opinion, the Texas supreme court recapped the basic law governing contract interpretation:

Absent ambiguity, contracts are construed as a matter of law.

In construing a written contract, our primary objective is to ascertain the parties' true intentions as expressed in the language they chose.

We construe contracts from a utilitarian standpoint bearing in mind the particular business activity sought to be served, and avoiding unreasonable constructions when possible and proper.

To that end, we consider the entire writing, harmonizing and giving effect to all the contract provisions so that none will be rendered meaningless.

No single provision taken alone is given controlling effect; rather, each must be considered in the context of the instrument as a whole.

We also give words their plain, common, or generally accepted meaning unless the contract shows that the parties used words in a technical or different sense.

A contract is not ambiguous if the contract's language can be given a certain or definite meaning.

But if the contract is subject to two or more reasonable interpretations after applying the pertinent construction principles, the contract is ambiguous, creating a fact issue regarding the parties' intent.

Summary judgment is not the proper vehicle for resolving disputes about an ambiguous contract.

[S]ummary judgment is proper if no genuine issue of material fact exists[.]

While extrinsic evidence of the parties' intent is not admissible to create an ambiguity, the contract may be read in light of the circumstances surrounding its execution to determine whether an ambiguity exists.

Consideration of the surrounding facts and circumstances is simply an aid in the construction of the contract's language and has its limits.

The rule that extrinsic evidence is not admissible to create an ambiguity obtains even to the extent of prohibiting proof of circumstances surrounding the transaction when the instrument involved, by its terms, plainly and clearly discloses the intention of the parties, or is so worded that it is not fairly susceptible of more than one legal meaning or construction.

Mere disagreement over the interpretation of an agreement does not necessarily render the contract ambiguous.

Plains Explor. & Prod. Co. v. Torch Energy Advisors Inc., 473 S.W.3d 296, 305 (Tex. 2015).

In an earlier opinion, the supreme court remarked (in a dictum) that "terms stated earlier in an agreement must be favored over subsequent terms." Coker v. Coker, 650 S.W.2d 391, 393 (Tex. 1983) (citation omitted).

See also, e.g., James J. Sienicki and Mike Yates, Contract interpretation: how courts resolve ambiguities in contract documents (Lexology.com 2012: https://goo.gl/ZGkwJu).

6.3 Vagueness is a type of ambiguity

As one type of ambiguity, a term is vague if its precise meaning is uncertain. As a silly example, consider this provision in a contract for a home caregiver: Nurse will visit Patient's house each day, check her vital signs, and give her cat food.

The italicized sentence above is ambiguous, in that conceivably it might take on any of three meanings:

  1. Nurse is to put a bowl of food down for Patient's cat each day. (This meaning might also be ambiguous in another way if Patient had more than one cat.)
  2. Nurse is to bring a gift of cat food with her when s/he visits Patient.
  3. Nurse is to feed cat food to Patient. (OK, this one is might not be plausible.) This meaning is itself ambiguous (because, e.g., the term cat food doesn't specify wet food or dry food) and also vague (because this meaning doesn't indicate how much cat food Nurse is to feed to Patient).

Georgetown law professor Lawrence Solum notes that tall is vague, while cool is both vague (just how cold is cool?) and ambiguous (temperature? fashionable? calm under pressure?). He suggests that "A term is vague, we might say, if and only if it has borderline cases." See Lawrence B. Solum, Legal Theory Lexicon 051: Vagueness and Ambiguity, at https://goo.gl/SBY5zA (typepad.com).

6.4 What do you do about ambiguity?

What do you do if you spot an ambiguity in a draft contract draft? The answer might depend on the circumstances:

  • If your side drafted the ambiguous language, then you'll definitely want to fix the ambiguity: under the doctrine of the doctrine of contra proferentem, discussed in section [TODO] below, a court might resolve the ambiguity in favor of the other side.
  • On the other hand, if the other side drafted the ambiguous language, then you might not want to say anything about it, in the hope that contra proferentem will result in an interpretation favorable to your client. (CAUTION: The other side might argue that you waived application of contra proferentem by failing to call out the ambiguity when you spotted it.)

6.5 Contra proferentem

6.5.1 Overview

Drafters should keep firmly in mind the contra proferentem principle of contract interpretation. That principle holds that if an ambiguity in particular language cannot be resolved by other conventional means (such as those discussed above), then the ambiguity should be resolved against the party that drafted the ambiguous language and thus is "to blame" for the problem. (If a contract provision is not ambiguous, then contra proferentem won't come into play in the first place.)

The contra proferentem principle gives drafters a powerful incentive to draft clearly: As between the drafter of ambiguous language, on the one hand, and the "innocent" other party, it's the drafter that must bear the consequences of the ambiguity.

The (U.S.) Supreme Court explained the concept of contra proferentem: "Respondents drafted an ambiguous document, and they cannot now claim the benefit of the doubt. The reason for this rule is to protect the party who did not choose the language from an unintended or unfair result." Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 514 U.S. 52, 62-63 (1995) (reversing 7th Circuit) (citations and footnotes omitted).

For additional information, see generally:

6.5.2 Typing a provision doesn't necessarily mean you drafted it

In Song v. Iatarola, No. 64A03-1609-PL-2094 (Ind. App. July 6, 2017), one party to a contract lost a case because of the way the court interpreted a particular provision in the contract. On appeal, the losing party claimed that the provision should have been interpreted against the winning party because the winning party supposedly "wrote" the provision. The record, though, contained evidence that, while the winning party had typed the provision into the Word document, the parties had jointly drafted the actual wording of the provision. That sank the losing party's argument; the appellate court held that:

During the summary judgment stage and in their appeal, the Iatarolas failed to establish that no genuine issue of material fact existed about whether Song independently drafted the addendum such that its interpretation should be construed against him. Rather, the evidence outlined above indicates that it was the Iatarolas who wanted the addendum drafted, and that both parties contributed to its preparation.

Id., slip op. at 3-4 (on rehearing; emphasis added).

6.5.3 Caution: Disclaiming contra proferentem could cause problems

Suppose that a court or arbitrator concluded (1) that there was no way to resolve an ambiguity in a contract, other than by applying the contra proferentem principle, but (2) the parties had agreed that contra proferentem was not to be applied. The results in that situation might be unpredictable:

  • The tribunal might disregard the contra proferentem prohibition and apply the principle to resolve the ambiguity; or
  • The tribunal might rule that the ambiguous provision could not be enforced — which in some circumstaces might jeopardize the enforceability of the entire contract.

(Hat tip: Jonathan Ely, in a comment in a LinkedIn group discussion (group membership required).)

6.6 Further reading about ambiguity

Some amusing examples of ambiguity can be read at the Wikipedia article on Syntactic ambiguity, at https://goo.gl/6zmrH5

See also numerous categorized case citations by KPMG in-house attorney Vince Martorana, at https://goo.gl/kQax4T.

6.7 Mnemonic: A.T.A.R.I.

A useful mnemonic for dealing with ambiguity is A.T.A.R.I. - Avoid the Argument: Rewrite It.

7 Serving the judge (and other readers)

7.1 Three crucial questions asked by judges and juries

Most contracts stay buried in the (electronic) file drawer. The contracting parties either don't get into disputes in the first place, or they successfully resolve any disputes on their own.

But woe betide the drafter (or reviewer) who forgets that ultimately a contract might have to serve as Exhibit A in a lawsuit or arbitration. For such a contract, the most important reader is the judge or arbitrator — who almost certainly is very busy; who might have little or no knowledge of the parties' business; and who would appreciate it if the contract quickly conveyed the answers to three crucial questions:

  1. Exactly what — if anything — did the defendant commit to do or not do in the contract?
  2. What event or events could trigger the defendant's commitment, and did the necessary triggering event or -events actually occur?
  3. Was the defendant's commitment subject to any relevant exceptions or other limitations?

Clumsy drafting can sometimes make these three contract questions very difficult for the judge, arbitrator, or other reader to puzzle out. During negotiation, this can slow up the non-drafting party's legal review and delay getting the contract to signature, and in litigation or arbitration, it can increase the chances of an unforeseen result.

The drafters and reviewers of a contract can serve all future readers  — not least, the business people who must read the contract — by being as clear as possible about these questions. Clarity thus helps to reduce the odds of a dispute arising in the first place.

7.2 The contract drafter's job: Educate and persuade

The author of a contract-drafting style manual once opined that, apart from the opening recitals, “in a contract you don’t reason or explain. You just state rules.” Ken Adams, More Words Not to Include in a Contract— “Therefore” and Its Relatives, at http://www.adamsdrafting.com/therefore/ (2008).

That view would be fine if people were computers, which do exactly as they're told: nothing more, nothing less. But people aren't computers. Memories are often short and can sometimes be "creative." Moreover, a contracting party's circumstances can change after the contract is signed — by the time a dispute arises, key employees and executives of a party could have different views of what's important, and they might have forgotten (perhaps conveniently) what mattered during the con­tract negotiations.

Let's not forget another important group of people: Judges, jurors, and arbitrators who are asked to enforce a contract can be influenced by what they think is right and fair. Sometimes, the wording of the contract's terms can make a difference.

So: People sometimes need to be educated, and even persuaded, to do the things they’re theoretically supposed to do.

That is the contract drafter's mission: To educate the parties — and sometimes judges and jurors — and, if necessary, to persuade them, to do what your client now wants them to do.

7.3 P-AAAA-T-E-L: A checklist for commitment clarity

Beginning contract drafters can refer to the mnemonic P-A4-T-E-L as a checklist to help them make sure their contractual commitments are clear:

P: Which if any party to the contract is making the commitment? Contracts should be extremely clear about this and avoid false imperatives — e.g., in an apartment lease agreement: The apartment shall be regularly serviced by a professional pest-control service — as discussed in § 3.2.

AAAA: Just what action, abstention (from action), assumed fact, or assent is the party commiting to? It might be, for example —

  1. A promise of action, that is, an affirmative covenant: Alice will deliver 1,000 candy canes to Bob's house at 9:00 a.m. on Christmas morning.

    Another possibility would be Alice is to deliver ….

    Some drafters like to use shall or must instead of will; the author prefers will because (i) it's less harsh, and (ii) in some English-speaking countries, shall might not be mandatory. [LINK]

  2. A promise of abstention from action, that is, a negative covenant: Alice will not park her candy delivery truck in front of Bob's house for longer than two minutes.

    Some drafters prefer to use more-emphatic language, e.g., Alice may not park, or perhaps even Alice must not park. The legal effect is essentially the same.

  3. A commitment to an assumed fact, in the form of a representation and/or a warranty: Alice represents and warrants that the candy canes will be fit for human consumption. (This is technically a form of action promise, as discussed in [BROKEN LINK: RepWarrGouge][BROKEN LINK: RepWarrGouge].)
  4. A statement of assent (i) to possible future action (or abstention) by another, or (ii) to ground rules to be followed by the parties and/or by others. For example:
    • Alice may dump the candy canes onto Bob's front yard. Bob implicitly assents to Alice's action (dumping the candy canes). Assent to action is in essence the same as, but it comes across more strongly than, a promise to abstain from objecting to the action.
    • Alice need not individually wrap the candy canes. Bob implicitly assents to Alice's abstention from individually wrapping the candy canes.
    • Any notice given under this Agreement must be in writing. Here, the parties assent to a ground rule that they will follow.
    • This Agreement will be governed by Texas law. Here, the parties assent to a ground rule that they hope a court will follow.

T: What if any triggering conditions, a.k.a. conditions precedent, are necessary for the commitment to become effective? IF: Bob so requests no later than 12 midnight on Christmas Eve; THEN: Alice will cause her candy-cane delivery driver to wear a Santa suit.

E: What if any exceptions, a.k.a. conditions subsequent, would provide the commiting party with an "out"? If it is snowing on Christmas morning, then Alice may wait to deliver the candy canes until the snow stops.

L: Are there any limitations of the commitment, e.g., minimum- or maximum cost, time required, start times, deadlines, boundaries, manner, etc.? Bob will reimburse Alice for any highway tolls paid in delivering the candy canes, but only up to a maximum total reimbursement of $20.

7.4 Mnemonics (in progress)

7.4.1 In general

  • A.T.A.R.I. - Avoid the Argument: Rewrite It
  • S.T.R. - Serve the Reader
  • W.S.I.Y.F. - White Space Is Your Friend (for readability and faster review and -signature)
  • D.R.Y. — Don't Repeat Yourself (with some exceptions)
  • R.O.O.F. - Root Out Opportunities for F[oul]-ups (D.R.Y. is an example of this)
  • W.I.D.D. - When In Doubt, Define
  • W.I.D.A.P. — When In Doubt, Ask the Partner
  • W.I.D.A.C. — When In Doubt, Ask the Client
  • W.T.C. - Whose Throat to Choke? (Or, be careful about possible false imperatives—whom do I sue if X doesn't get done?)
  • O.T.C. - One Throat to Choke! (Remember: Two baseball outfielders letting a fly ball drop to the ground between them because neither one "calls it.")
  • G.F. - Graceful Failure - it's better to have a Plan B than to go right to litigation for breach of contract.

7.4.2 Specific drafting points

  • F.O.L.D. — Foreseeability as a Limitation (of liability) is Dangerous
  • "Any of A, B, and C" vs. "one or more of A, B, and C" – the former arguably means exactly one, so if that's what's meant, consider saying "any one of A, B, or C."
  • To avoid confusion, use may to indicate permission and might to indicate possibility. Example: Consider the two possible meanings of the statement, Consultant may not send the invoice before December 31.

7.4.3 Other

  • Right of first refusal / right of first offer
    • F.O.F.L. - First Offer = First Look
    • F.R.I.L.L. - First Refusal Is Last Look

7.5 Potential test questions

  1. QUESTION: Which of the following does the author think is not a good choice:
    A. Bob will pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
    B. Bob shall pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
    C. Bob must pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
    D. Bob is to pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
  2. QUESTION: In the mnemonic P-A4-T-E-L, what are the four types of commitment symbolized by A4?
  3. QUESTION: In the mnemonic P-A4-T-E-L, which of these is one of the four types of commitment symbolized by A4?
    A. Admission into evidence.
    B. Assignment of agreement.
    C. Acknowledgement.
    D. Abstention.
  4. TRUE OR FALSE: In a contract to remodel a kitchen in a house, the following would be an acceptable drafting style: All building permits are to be timely obtained.

8 Future agenda items (in development)

Contents (click on a title)

8.1 (N) Grammar Fail: Homosexuality and the Texas GOP's platform (2016)

From the Texas GOP platform of 2016: "Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans." See, e.g., the NPR story.

8.2 (N) Roy Moore's lawyer's letter to press (2017)

DCT to pull up on his screen

8.3 (N) United Airlines: doctor dragged screaming off the plane (2017)

  • A comment: "United could and probably should have offered more, even if they wound up paying more than the federally mandated payment for involuntarily bumping, to avoid creating a PR nightmare."
  • United's new club seating plan
  • Lessons for contract drafters:
    • Perspective on the real business needs (e.g., dispute-escalation provision)
    • Make it about money

8.4 (N) Notetaking ideas

See this piece on notetaking ideas, such as:

  • You retain information far better if you handwrite your notes vs. typing them.
  • Drawing your notes improves retention (cf. mind-mapping).

8.5 (N) Kobe Steel quality problems (2017)

I added this article to my SPP file; it's apropos of "you get what you INspect, not what you EXpect": https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/business/kobe-steel-japan.html

… Kobe Steel has acknowledged falsifying data about the quality of aluminum and copper it sold, setting off a scandal that is reverberating through the global supply chain and casting a new shadow over the country’s reputation for precision manufacturing.

The fallout has the potential to spread to hundreds of companies. Big multinationals, including automakers like Toyota Motor, General Motors and Ford, as well as aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, are investigating.

Toshiaki Oguchi, director of Governance for Owners Japan, a corporate watchdog, said that Japanese companies were generally diligent about quality, but that when cheating occurred — because of competitive pressure or other factors — it could too easily go unchecked. Japanese companies, he said, tend to discourage thorough examination or criticism, either from employees or from independent outsiders.

Kobe Steel said on Sunday that employees at four of its factories had altered inspection certificates on aluminum and copper products from September 2016 to August this year. The changes, it said, made it look as if the products met manufacturing specifications required by custom­ers — including for vital qualities like tensile strength, a measure of material’s ability to withstand a load without breaking when being stretched — when they did not.

(Emphasis added.)

To be sure, contract drafters normally can't do that much to change corporate cultures. But building "nudges" into agreements can sometimes be useful; see generally the book Nudge, by Nobel economics laureate Richard Thaler and Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein.

8.6 (N) Bitcoin for ransomeware payoffs

Many stockpile bitcoin to make payoffs (phys.org) – this is relevant to thinking about what-if scenarios and preparing for them.

8.7 (N) Yahoo and Verizon renegotiate after breaches

Verizon and Yahoo renegotiate their deal at a price of $4.48 billion ($350 million lower). DISCUSSION: MAC clauses.

8.8 (N) Fraud: Gates Foundation sues software development co.

DCT to talk about this lawsuit.

8.9 (N) Oscars "Best Picture" snafu (2017)

  1. R.O.O.F.: "Simply put the name of the category in large letters on each envelope: Best Movie, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, etc." (WSJ.com commenter Felix Kapron)
  2. You get what you inspect, not what you expect; having someone else second-check things — even tiny details — can pay off.
  3. Warren Beatty could have put the brakes on, if he hadn't been a deer in the headlights.
  4. It took two full minutes for the CPAs and telecast producers to step in to fix the problem. (Did they train for that problem?)
  5. Note the energetic, classy response by La La Land's executive producer Jordan Horowitz: Acknowledge, accept, enjoy, act.

8.10 (S) Streamlining sentences (2)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   We will make a distribution of shares.

After:  

8.11 (S) Streamlining sentences (3)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   We will provide appropriate information to shareholders.

After:

8.12 (S) Streamlining sentences (4)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   We will have no stock ownership of the company.

After:

8.13 (S) Streamlining sentences (5)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   There is the possibility of prior Board approval of these investments.

After:

8.14 (S) Streamlining sentences (6)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   The settlement of travel claims involves the examination of orders.

After:

8.15 (S) Streamlining sentences (7)

Rewrite the following sentence in your group's virtual whiteboard to trim out the "fat" (feel free to revise in Word and then paste into the whiteboard).

Before:   Use 1.5 line spacing for the preparation of your contract draft.

After:  

8.16 (S) Drafting problems with a contract (1)

From a contract drafted by The Other Side of a deal (sanitized):

Within thirty (60) days of the close of previous quarter term, ABC shall provide XYZ with a revenue report that provides a total amount of Data Revenue and Software Revenue obtained by ABC during the referenced quarter term, minus any associated costs or expenses and customer returns or refunds ("Revenue Report").

QUESTION: Any drafting problem with this? (This should be really obvious.)

QUESTION: Ignoring the substance, how might this be otherwise improved to make it more readable?

8.17 (S) Payments based on net revenue

From a contract drafted by The Other Side of a deal (sanitized):

Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, ABC shall pay, on a quarterly basis, to XYZ twenty percent (20%) of Data Revenue (net of all associated costs and expenses) for Licensed Transactions for the Term of this Agreement ….

QUESTION: Should XYZ have any business concerns about the "net of all associated costs and expenses" term?

8.18 (S) Reps and warranties: IP

From a contract drafted by The Other Side of a deal (sanitized):

"XYZ represents and warrants that XYZ's software and its use will not infringe any patent, copyright, or trade secret of any third party.

QUESTION: Which of "patent, copyright, or trade secret" might XYZ want to represent and not warrant? (Students with no IP background probably can't answer this one; it requires some basic substantive knowledge but is still a useful exercise.)

8.19 (S) Legal language usage "quiz" (not for grade)

DCT to pull up on the screen

8.20 (S) Minor drafting fail: Phonograph needles

Look at the italicized portion of this passage from Ian Bogost, Why Computers Should Be Hidden (TheAtlantic.com Oct. 25, 2017):

A vinyl record, for example, records a continuous stream of sound as grooves on the surface of a disk. The vibrations that produced those grooves are later traced by the turntable’s needle, which amplifies them for playback.

QUESTION 1: Is it really the vibrations that produced the groove — singular, not plural — that are traced by the turntable's needle? A: No — as the record is rotated under the needle, the needle traces the groove itself and thereby creates new vibrations, which are detected and amplified by other means.

QUESTION 2 (for discussion): Under what circumstances might it have been worth the author's time to get this right?

8.21 (S) Ambiguity: How much did Grandpa leave in his will?

A student from fall 2017 forwarded a (redacted) codicil to a will with the following drafting fail (slightly edited):

4.1(b) I give $ AMOUNT A each to STEP-GRANDSON and STEP-GRANDDAUGHTER …

4.1(c) I give to GRANDSON #1 and GRANDSON #2 a cash bequest of $ AMOUNT B ….

The student summarized the drafting fail as follows:

The drafting law firm was careless and left out the word “each” in §4.1(c), despite using it in §4.1(b). [DCT COMMENT: Remember the interpretation principle of 'inclusio unius est exclusio alterius.'] It has the effect of halving the specific bequest to each of the grandsons when the stated (verbal) intent of the testator was that it should be “each.”

The good news is that this is being remedied by a family settlement agreement. Regardless of what the testator meant (be it “each” or “split in two”) there was a better way to draft this.

Thought I’d pass it along since it was a real life example… and unfortunately may not be uncommon either.

(Emphasis added.)

8.22 Grammar: Professor Goodenough's prospects

From the Houston Chronicle:

Feeling behind in school wasn't new for Goodenough when he started his physics Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. As a child, his dyslexia went undiagnosed. But it still stung when, after serving in World War II, an administrator told him he wouldn't make it as a physicist because he had started too late. He was in his 20s.

QUESTION (discuss in your groups): What's wrong with the italicized portion?

8.23 Grammar: The sheer amount of internet domains

From the Washington Monthly:

But, legislative proposals for increasing the diversity of ideological points of view aren’t without their own limitations. “Must-carry” policies, for example, which were originally designed to ensure that television broadcasters would promote education and attention to public issues, would never work online. The sheer amount of internet domains would not only make it impossible to regulate speech, but attempting to do so would also be unconstitutional.

QUESTION (discuss in your groups): What's wrong with the italicized portion?

1.  Ambiguity and the $10-million [missing] comma

2.  Grammar fail: Steve Bannon's ex-wife

3.  Grammar fail: Afghan "ghost troops"

8.24 (S) Flow: Carbolic acid and Queen Victoria

From this NPR piece:

[Joseph] Lister was the closest surgeon to [Queen Victoria's] residence in Scotland, Fitzharris says, so she directed Lister to come drain a large abscess growing under her armpit. Before the surgery, Lister's assistant sprayed carbolic acid with a machine Lister invented called the donkey engine all over the operation area, sterilizing it but also accidentally spraying the queen in the face.

QUESTION: How could the italicized text be rewritten to "flow" better? (Hint: Consider rewriting it so that it would sound more-natural if read aloud — which isn't bad advice for any writing.)

8.25 (S) Flow: A progressive bent

See the italicized sentence in this piece in The Atlantic:

The first sign that this new system had some kinks came with “Upworthy-style” headlines. (And you’ll never guess what happened next!) Things didn’t just go kind of viral, they went ViralNova, a site which, like Upworthy itself, Facebook eventually smacked down. Many of the new sites had, like Upworthy, which was cofounded by Pariser, a progressive bent.

(Emphasis added.) QUESTION: How could the last, italicized sentence be rewritten so that it "flows" better and thus is more readable?

8.26 (S) What if you spot an ambiguity?

This question comes from a discussion in the LinkedIn group "Drafting Contracts" — there's no need to read the discussion, but you should consider joining the group.

The question that kicked off the discussion was this (edited):

When you review a contract and discover that a certain clause is poorly drafted, do you —

  • leave it as it is with the confidence that it probably will be construed against the other side, or
  • amend it, trying to make it mutual, but with the risk of bringing attention to the clause which could then be discovered by the other side.

What would you do?

8.27 (S) Ambiguity and traffic signs

See this sign (and this one).

8.28 (S) Ambiguity and lawyer ethics rules

TEXT: This was the title of an article in the April 2017 ABA Journal: "Lawyers should tread carefully before quitting a troublesome client to comply with ethics rules"

QUESTION: What exactly are lawyers being encouraged to do to comply with ethics rules — (A) quit a troublesome client, or (B) tread carefully?

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.29 (S) Language: Shall, will, must, etc.

QUESTION: The author regards one of the following as not a good choice — which one, and why?
A. Bob will pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
B. Bob shall pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
C. Bob must pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.
D. Bob is to pay Alice $1,000 no later than December 24.

8.30 (S) Flow: The dockside cranes at Churchill's funeral

At the end of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965, his coffin was taken by boat, up the River Thames, to his final resting place in Oxfordshire. As the boat passed by the great wharves of the London Docklands, the operators of the giant cranes spontaneously lowered the cranes' arms in salute.

TEXT (from a Telegraph account by a witness): "I heard that was never planned, but was a spontaneous gesture by crane drivers of respect."

QUESTION: Does the phrase "of respect" refer to: (A) a spontaneous gesture, or (B) crane drivers?

EXERCISE: Rewrite the italicized portion to make it clear that the answer to the question is (A). [7]

8.31 (S) Ambiguity: An elephant takes a selfie?

From this tweet: "Man trampled to death by elephant trying to take a SELFIE"

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.32 (S) Ambiguity: From the "B.C." comic strip

See the strip of July 17, 2017.

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.33 (S) Ambiguity: From the "Mutts" comic strip

See the strip of July 13, 2017.

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.34 (S) Ambiguity from President Trump

From a presidential tweet of April 3, 2017: "Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends. …" (Hat tip: Chris Richardson.)

8.35 (S) Ambiguity: A gift to siblings

TEXT: I will give you and your brother $1 million.

QUESTION: How much total will the siblings get — $1 million, or $2 million?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

QUESTION: What if the text were: You will give me and my brother $1 million?

QUESTION: What if the text were: I will give you and your husband $1 million.

8.36 (S) Ambiguity: Progressive resistance to President Trump

TEXT: "The temptation for progressives to resist pushing their own concrete policy agenda is compelling, especially since doing so gives the other side ammunition for criticism …." (From Joel Berg, It's Policy, Stupid — Why progressives need real solutions to real problems, Washington Monthly, Apr. 10, 2017.)

QUESTION: In the quotation, the italicized "doing so" refers to what, exactly — pushing a policy agenda, or resisting pushing an agenda?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.37 (S) Language: Donald Trump and Nigel Farange

From a tweet: "You can’t have observed Nigel Farage in recent years and not think Trump may win in November, writes @NYTimesCohen nyti.ms/2bMhUUj" (emphasis added)

QUESTION: How could this be improved?

8.38 (S) Grammar: Email attachments

TEXT (from an email to DCT): "Attached are three files, the event surveys, the CLE sheet for DC and the mailing list sign up form."

QUESTION: What's wrong with this sentence? (Hint: It's the internal punctuation and spelling.) [8]

8.39 (S) Terms: Payment (1)

1. PROVISION: "Alice represents that she will pay Bob net 30 days." In your small groups, prepare to discuss the following:

QUESTION: What does "net 30 days" mean? [9]

QUESTION: Is anything wrong with the "net 30 days" part? [10]

QUESTION: Is anything else wrong with this provision? [11]

2. ASSIGNMENT: On the facts of #1 above, and in your small group's Google Doc, each student is to draft a replacement for the quoted provision. Feel free to consult your classmates, but do your own writing.

3. FACTS: (A) Bob wants Alice to agree to the following provision: Alice will notify Bob of any dispute about a payment obligation no later than the due date of the payment. (B) Alice's lawyer objects to this provision.

QUESTION: Should Bob push hard for this provision? [12]

QUESTION: Should Bob read anything into the fact that Alice's lawyer objected to this provision? [13]

3. FACTS: A contract payment provision states that past-due payments will bear interest at 8% per month beginning on the due date. Texas law applies.

QUESTION: Any problem with this provision? [14]

QUESTION: How should you respond if you see this while reviewing a contract drafted by another party — that is, if it were your client that putatively would have to pay interest on past-due amounts? [15]

8.40 (S) Ambiguity: The daughter of Poseidon

Heard on The Ezra Klein Show, a podcast on Vox.com, when he interviewed his Vox co-founder Melissa Bell: she said, "I was raised by the ocean in San Diego." Klein immediately responded: "Poseidon was my father … I control the waves."

EXERCISE: Rewrite to eliminate the ambiguity.

8.41 (S) Ambiguity: Fukushima

TEXT – from the New York Times: "… Carl Pillitteri, who was working as a field engineer on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating station in Japan when a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the island in 2011, resulting in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl; it left some 18,490 people dead or missing …."

QUESTION: What is the "it" that left some 18,490 people dead or missing — the earthquake, the tsunami, or the nuclear disaster? EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.42 (S) Ambiguity: If applicable

TEXT: Except as provided in sections 5 and 6 (if applicable) …

QUESTION: Suppose that section 6 is applicable but section 5 is not applicable — would that trigger the exception of this phrase?

EXERCISE: Rewrite so that it's clear that the exception is triggered only if section 6 is not applicable.

8.43 (S) Ambiguity: Milk, eggs, and computer programmers

Check out this Facebook picture. The salient sentence is: "Honey, please go to the market and buy 1 [sic] bottle of milk. If they have eggs, bring 6 [sic]."

EXERCISE: Rewrite thes second sentence to clarify the intended meaning.

8.44 (S) Ambiguity: Vladimir Putin

TEXT: "WASHINGTON (AP) – A Russian billionaire close to President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he is willing to take part in U.S. congressional hearings to discuss his past business relationship with President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort." (AP.com)

QUESTIONS: 1) Who exactly is willing to take part in U.S. congressional hearings? 2) How could this be clarified?

8.45 (S) Ambiguity: New York City nuns

From Matt A.V. Chaban, Down to One Resident in 15,600 Square Feet, a Missionary Sisterhood’s Home Is for Sale (NYTimes.com June 2016):

The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was established in New York almost by accident. It was founded in 1897 by Mother Marie Louise De Meester, who was visiting during World War I [???] following a missionary trip to St. Croix. During her stay, she realized a residence in the city might not only ease the order’s work in the Western Hemisphere, but also improve recruitment.

EXERCISE: Rewrite the second and third sentences so as not to suggest that World War I was going on in 1897.

8.46 (S) Ambiguity: Homeopathic decongestant

TEXT: From a friend's Facebook post about taking his wife out for dinner in Portugal: "She took a homeopathic decongestant bought in a Portuguese pharmacy in the taxi …."

QUESTION: How exactly is this ambiguous?

EXERCISE: Suggest one or more ways of eliminating the ambiguity.

8.47 (S) Ambiguity: Electric chair

TEXT: The judge sentenced the killer to die in the electric chair for the second time.

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.48 (S) Ambiguity: Memorial Day

TEXT: From Hillary Clinton's foreign-policy speech, June 2, 2016: "We honor the sacrifice of those who died for our country in many ways – by living our values, by making this a stronger and fairer nation, and by carrying out a smart and principled foreign policy.

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.49 (S) Ambiguity and the $10-million [missing] comma

TEXT: From O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, 851 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. 2017) (reversing grant of partial summary judgment to Oakhurst):

  • "Specifically, Exemption F [of Maine's overtime law] states that the protection of the overtime law does not apply to: ¶ The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: ¶ (1) Agricultural produce; ¶ (2) Meat and fish products; and ¶ (3) Perishable foods." Id. at 71 (streamlined).
  • "We conclude, however, that Exemption F is ambiguous, even after we take account of the relevant interpretive aids and the law's purpose and legislative history. For that reason, we conclude that, under Maine law, we must construe the exemption in the narrow manner that the drivers favor, as doing so furthers the overtime law's remedial purposes." Id. at 72.

(The opinion goes on for 20 more pages elaborating on the reasoning that's summarized in the above excerpts.)

This reinforces the need for drafters to try to spot these issues—and write around them—on the front end, so as to avoid having these awkward and expensive conversations later.

8.50 (S) Ambiguity: Wormhole

From an AT&T U-Verse blurb about the sci-fi movie Interstellar: "“Facing extinction, a wormhole gives hope of a habitable planet for future humans ….”

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.51 (S) Ambiguity: Meeting your husband

TEXT: I can't tell you how much I enjoyed meeting your husband.

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.52 (S) Ambiguity: Iron fish

From Philippa Roxby, Why an iron fish can make you stronger (BBC.com 2015): "… participants started using water from wells after a few months, because of drought, which was contaminated by arsenic."

QUESTION: What exactly was contaminated by arsenic — drought? wells? water?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.53 (S) Ambiguity: Litigation threats

TEXT: No litigation against Borrower is pending or threatened to Borrower's knowledge.

QUESTION 1: What are two possible meanings?

QUESTION 2: How might a court resolve the ambiguity? (Hint: Think about who likely drafted this provision and then consider the contra proferentem principle.)

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.54 (S) Ambiguity: Jewish grandmothers

From Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker: "My grandmother is ninety-three and, to my knowledge, has never kept kosher."

QUESTION: What are two plausible intepretations of the bold-faced phrase?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.55 (S) Ambiguity: Trust funds

TEXT: The Trust may donate funds only to charitable and educational institutions.

QUESTION: May the Trust donate funds to an institution that is charitable but not educational? How about vice versa?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.56 (S) Ambiguity: NFL idiots?

From a comment about Tom Brady: "NFL teams passed on Brady 198 times in the 2000 draft. … They didn’t overlook him because every NFL team is run by idiots. There was no readily available reason to want him. He was scrawny, he couldn’t throw much of a deep ball and he ran like a gawky teenager." (From Adam Kilgore at WashingtonPost.com; emphasis added.)

PART 1: Each student is to rewrite the italicized part to clarify it.

PART 2: Try clarifying by changing the punctuation between the italicized sentence and the immediately-following one (if you didn't do it that way the first time).

8.57 (S) News: K-Mart store lease termination

tl;dr: Contract says Landlord's exclusive remedy for Tenant breach is to terminate the lease; Landlord sues for money damages anyway — and gets poured out. Davenport Chester, LLC v. Abrams Properties, Inc., No. 16-3228 (8th Cir. Sept. 5, 2017) (affirming summary judgment in favor of Tenant).

8.58 (S) Grammar: Safes

From this Web page about "safes," an increasingly-used legal instrument for early-stage investment: "At the company’s discretion, you will either receive $5,000 in cash or stock." (Emphasis added.)

QUESTION: What's wrong with this? (Hint: To get an idea, try breaking up the sentence by adding romanettes.)

EXERCISE: In your group's Google Doc, each student is to draft a revised sentence.

8.59 (S) Ambiguituy: Gerrymandering and the wrong choice of words

TEXT: From a Vox.com article: "… gerrymandering forces the losing party to "waste" votes by placing all its voters into a small number of districts where the party gets a landslide, rather than spreading those voters out so they can have more impact."

QUESTIONS: Is it the losing party that's "placing all of its voters into a small number of districts"? Or is it the gerrymandering that does so?

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.60 (S) Ambiguity: Trademark license termination

From General Nutrition Investment Co. v. Holland & Barrett Int'l Ltd (Rev 1) [2017] EWHC 746 (Ch), ¶ 15:

5.2 The Licensor may terminate this Agreement [sic] immediately by notice in writing if:

     (a) The Licensee [i] materially breaches this Agreement or any other member with the H&B Group commits an act which would amount to a material breach of this Agreement or [ii] (without prejudice to the Licensor’s other rights to terminate under this Agreement) otherwise infringes the Licensor’s rights under the Trade Marks [iii] to an extent likely to cause material lost to the Licensor; or …

(Bracketed romanettes added; hat tip: IP Draughts.)

QUESTION 1: Does the materiality qualifier in clause iii apply to both clause i and clause ii or just to clause ii? EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

QUESTION 2: At the beginning of section 5.2, why does this quotation include "[sic]" after "terminate this Agreement"?

8.61 (S) Flow: Tom Brady and the Tennessee Titans

TEXT: "Maybe the Tennessee Titans are coming up for Tom Brady and the new England patriots at the perfect time." Kyle Hightower, Brady bullish on Titans after drama-filled week, Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2018.

EXERCISE: Rewrite this sentence to make it "flow" better. Hint: Notice how far apart the phrases "coming up" and "at the perfect time" are. (You might, but need not, try breaking this into two sentences.)

* * * 

TEXT: "Notice how far apart the phrases 'coming up' and 'at the perfect time' are." (From the immediately-preceding paragraph.)

EXERCISE: Rewrite this sentence to make it flow better.

8.62 (S) Clarity: The bored monk

TEXT: "An acedic [bored] monk might be reluctant to rise from bed in the mornings, or fall asleep in church, but have plenty of energy for gossiping and hurrying to the refectory." From Julia Bourke, How to think like a medieval monk (Lapham's Quarterly Dec. 18, 2017).

EXERCISE: Rewrite to make it clear that an acedic monk would not be reluctant to fall asleep in church.

8.63 (S) Language exercise: LaGuardia airport

TEXT: From this NY Times article: "Under any circumstances, turning the La Guardia that Mr. Biden derided in 2014 into the 'globally renowned, 21st-century airport' that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has promised would be an impressive feat."

EXERCISE: Rewrite to make this more clear. (Hint: Consider rearranging its components.)

8.64 (S) Ambiguity: Overseas trips

TEXT — from a parent's letter of recommendation for a prospective Eagle Scout: "We've taken a number of family trips, including trips to China, the Netherlands, and Italy this past year."

QUESTION: Is it clear when the trips to China and the Netherlands took place?

EXERCISE: Rephrase to be clear that only the trip to Italy was in the previous year.

EXERCISE: Rephrase to be clear that all the trips were taken in the previous year.

8.65 (S) Ambiguity: Rubio's concession speech

TEXT: A tweet by Vox.com's Ezra Klein: "I'll support the guy who did all these terrible things I'm talking about in the general [election]"

QUESTION: There are three possibilities for what happened, or was supposed to happen, or will happen, in the general election; what are they?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.66 (S) Ambiguity: White Sox clubhouse

From Ken Hoffman's column in the Houston Chronicle, March 22, 2016, p. D2, col. 1:

White Sox management announced this week that the LaRoche matter was closed — and the right decision was made by all parties involved.

QUESTION: Was Hoffman —

  • reporting that the right decision was made, or
  • opining that the right decision was made?

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.67 (S) Ambiguity: Less and less people

From Mark Kleiman, The Current Crime Debate Isn't Doing Hillary Justice (WashingtonMonthly.com Feb. 2016):

When the prison population is small, it consists mostly of serious, high-rate offenders, because prosecutors and judges try to single them out. Therefore, when the population grows, it grows mostly by adding less and less dangerous people.

(Emphasis added.)

QUESTIONS:

  1. Is the bold-faced portion ambiguous? If so, what are the two (or more) possible meanings?
  2. Would "fewer and fewer dangerous people" be a better fit here?
  3. Might hyphens be useful here? (See the Grammarist notes on phrasal adjectives.)
  4. Could the bold-faced portion be improved? If so, revise it.

8.68 (S) Ambiguity: Book of Common Prayer

From the Book of Common Prayer (1979) of the Episcopal Church, pp. 361, 377 (Eucharistic Prayer A with the Proper Preface for Lent):

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin ….

QUESTION: Ignoring the theology and christology, to what does the phrase "Through Jesus Christ our Lord" refer to:
(A) The people giving thanks through Jesus; or
(B) the Father Almighty creating heaven and earth through Jesus?

ASSIGNMENT: In the chat room, Revise the second sentence so that the passage refers clearly to choice A above. (Hint: Adding three words to the beginning would be one way to do it.)

8.69 (S) Ambiguity: Medical report

"The young man had involuntary seminal fluid emission when he engaged in foreplay for several weeks." From an example given by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (2014).

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.70 (S) Ambiguity: Want ads

"Wanted: Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink." From an example given by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (2014).

EXERCISE: Clarify.

8.71 (S) Ambiguity: Deadlines

EXERCISE: Rewrite the following to eliminate the ambiguities:

  1. Bids may be submitted until March 1.
  2. The lease expires at 12:00 a.m. on March 1.

8.72 (S) Ambiguity: NCAA Finals

TEXT: "[The team] reached the tournament finals for the seventh time this year."

QUESTION: How many years did it take this team to reach the tournament finals — are you sure?

8.73 (S) Ambiguity: Merle Haggard

Rewrite to eliminate the ambiguity:

Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.

(In http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012652.html and quoted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma#Unresolved_ambiguity)

8.74 (S) Ambiguity: Bid deadline

TEXT: Bids may be submitted until March 1.

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify

8.75 (S) Ambiguity: A family of persecutors

FACTS: This is adapted from my church's Easter Sunday service booklet of a few years ago (with the family's name changed):

Easter flowers and decorations are given
to the glory of God
and in memory of their grandmother Jane Doe
In honor of all Christians,
Especially those persecuted
By the Doe family

EXERCISE: Rewrite. (Hint: How could this be fixed with just one additional character?)

8.76 (S) Ambiguity: The job recommendation

TEXT: "I enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever." From an example given by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (2014).

8.77 (S) Ambiguity: Sex and the Supreme Pontiff

Rewrite this headline to eliminate the ambiguity:

Prostitutes Appeal to Pope

(Adapted from http://grammar.about.com/od/terms/g/ambiguity.htm)

8.78 (S) Ambiguity: What to bring?

State the two possibilities for what the writer below will bring to a party:

I'll bring wine or beer and dessert.

(Adapted from http://www.literarydevices.com/ambiguity)

8.79 (S) Ambiguity: Quack quack?

Rephrase to eliminate the ambiguity:

I saw her duck.

(Adapted from http://literarydevices.net/ambiguity/)

8.80 (S) Ambiguity: Dog bite

Use one character to eliminate the ambiguity:

Passerby helps dog bite victim.

(Adapted from http://literarydevices.net/ambiguity)

8.81 (S) Ambiguity: Umbrella strikes

Rewrite this headline to eliminate the ambiguity:

She hit the man with an umbrella.

(Adapted from http://literarydevices.net/ambiguity)

8.82 (S) Ambiguity: Going to Oregon

Consider the following sentence:

The family went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook.

Use punctuation (consider semi-colons, parentheses, and dashes) to be clear that the family went to Oregon with:

  • one person
  • two persons
  • three persons

(Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma#Unresolved_ambiguity)

8.83 (S) Ambiguity: Arenas awash in pleasure

TEXT: From a Maureen Dowd column in the NY Times, March 5, 2016: "Like Bill Clinton, Trump talks and talks to crowds. They feed his narcissism, and in turn, he creates an intimacy even in an arena that leaves both sides awash in pleasure." (Emphasis added.)

DISCUSSION: The italicized part of this quotation arguably has two meanings: Both sides are left awash in pleasure by —

  1. An arena.
  2. The intimacy that Trump creates even in an arena.

EXERCISE: Rewrite the italicized portion of the Dowd quote to be clear that she intended the second meaning.

8.84 (S) Ambiguity at the rodeo

From Joey Guerra, Chris Young in fine voice at RodeoHouston, Houston Chronicle, Mar. 3, 2016, p. A8: "Nothing was ever too brash or too loud."

QUESTION: Did the writer think that Chris Young was, or wasn't, brash and loud?

8.85 (S) Ambiguities: Beeeeer ….

TEXT: St. Arnold's will ship 1,000 cases of beer to Labatt's in Ontario for $5 per case.

QUESTION: Is the italicized portion ambiguous, or vague?

8.86 (S) Ambiguity: Inept phonies in politics

TEXT: From a Maureen Dowd column in the NY Times, March 5, 2016: "Trump was right about Romney. When you lose a race that you should have won by being an inept phony, you can’t call this year’s front-runner an inept phony." (Emphasis added.)

COMMENT: The italicized part of this quotation arguably has two meanings; what are they?

EXERCISE: Rewrite the italicized portion of the Dowd quote to clarify it. See if you can keep something of the same rhythm or structure to the sentence.

8.87 (S) Ambiguity: Texas Democrats

TEXT: "[In the 1930s, some] of Texas's wealthiest families could not abide the new breed of Texas Democrats who found hope in the New Deal and wanted the federal government to do even more." (Adapted from Mary Beth Rogers, Turning Texas Blue – What It Will Take to Break the GOP Grip on America's Reddest State, at 49 (New York: St. Martin's Press 2016))

QUESTION: Who wanted the federal government to do more — (A) the new breed of Texas Democrats, or (B) some of Texas's wealthiest families?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to make it clear that the intended meaning was (A).

NOTE: This sentence correctly uses "Texas's" as the possessive, with the s-apostrophe-s and not merely s-apostrophe. (A generally-recognized exception to this rule is the possessive of Jesus of Nazareth, e.g., the centurions divided Jesus' robe among them.)

8.88 (S) Ambiguity and Olivia Pope

TEXT: "Wait for me to do what I do best." (Spoken by Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in an episode of Scandal aired April 7, 2016.)

QUESTION: What are the two possible meanings of this sentence?

EXERCISE: Rewrite the line of dialogue to be clear which version you think Olivia meant — and try to make it sound "natural" and not lawyer-like.

8.89 (S) Ambiguity and IRS Form 1099

TEXT: "As we tend to receive the most questions related to Form 1099-MISC, we would like to provide you with some general guidelines and resources in order to assist you with the accurate and timely filing of Form 1099-MISC." (From Christie A. Gricius, CPA, Client Alert: 1099-MISC Reporting Guidelines (Jan. 2016) (emphasis added).)

QUESTION: What are the two possible meanings of the italicized text?

EXERCISE: Rewrite the italicized portion twice, once for each meaning.

8.90 (S) Ambiguity: The Affordable Care Act

TEXT: (Adapted from a comment by a guest on the first hour of the Diane Rehm Show, Apr. 12, 2016): Before the Affordable Care Act, "if you had a pre-existing condition such as breast cancer, you could not be covered."

QUESTION: Does this mean that before the ACA, if you had a pre-existing condition insurance carriers: (A) were not permitted to offer coverage, or (B) might choose to deny coverage?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to make it clear that the intended meaning was (B).

8.91 (S) Ambiguity: Meow

Rewrite to eliminate the ambiguity: "He gave her cat food."

(Adapted from http://literarydevices.net/ambiguity)

8.92 (S) Ambiguity and Obama's veto

TEXT: From the Washington Post: "The House GOP effort to override Obama's veto of a bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood failed to get two-thirds, as expected."

QUESTION: Just what was expected — failing to get two-thirds, or getting two-thirds?

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.93 (S) Ambiguity and Hillary Clinton's blue collar

81LDLRjD7eL.jpg

From Politico: "She’s dressed in a blue-collared shirt and wearing bold silver earrings."

QUESTIONS:

1. In the phrase "blue-collared shirt," is this use of the hyphen correct, given the shirt shown in the picture?

2. If yes, is such use optimal?

(Hint: See Purdue's style guide, although this is a subject about which opinions vary.)

8.94 (S) Ambiguity and lawyer spin

TEXT: From this comment (by a brilliant lawyer) in an on-line forum: "A classic lawyering tactic is to use the most favorable (to your side) characterization of something you can justify."

QUESTION: In this sentence, what exactly is to be justified — the most favorable characterization of something, or the (some)thing itself?

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.95 (S) Ambiguity: Burglars and bystander

From the Houston Chronicle, Aug. 22, 2016 "Police apprehended two men accused of burglarizing two homes on the North Side with the help of a civilian who chased them Monday afternoon."

QUESTION: Did the citizen help the police, or the burglars?

QUESTION: Did the citizen chase the burglars, or the police?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify.

8.96 (S) Ambiguity: Midnight hour

TEXT: "Tenant will vacate the Premises no later than 12 midnight on December 15, 2020; Tenant's failure to do so will be a material breach of this Agreement."

FACTS: At 10:00 a.m. on December 15, Tenant is still occupying the Premises.

QUESTION: Is Tenant in material breach?

EXERCISE: Rewrite.

8.97 (S) Ambiguity: Early retirement

TEXT: From a 2016 headline: "Houston Technology Center CEO To Retire Early Next Year" (He retired Feb. 1, 2017 after serving for ten years.)

QUESTION: Was the CEO going to retire, and the retirement was to take place in early 2017? Or was he to retire in 2017, which was earlier than had been expected?

EXERCISE: Rewrite to clarify

8.98 (S) Terms: CPI increases in pricing

FACTS:

  1. You represent Buyer in negotiating a long-term master purchase agreement with Seller.
  2. You draft a price-increase clause that limits Seller's permissible price increases to no more than the increase in CPI (and no more than once a year as well).
  3. A year later, Seller says it is increasing its price by the percentage stated in a particular CPI published by the U.S. Government for the specific industry in which Seller and Buyer operate. You hadn't known there even was such a thing.
  4. Your client Buyer angrily tells you that Seller's price increase must be limited to the (much-lower) increase in the "regular" CPI, namely CPI-U, US City Average, All Items, 1982–1984=100.

    In this fact situation, to what does "CPI" refer? [16]

QUESTION: In the U.S., where does CPI data usually come from ? [17]

QUESTION: On these facts, how might a court rule on Buyer's claim that Seller's price increases must be limited to the increase in CPI-U and not to the increase in the special CPI? [18]

8.99 (L) Warranty disclaimer (draft)

In your small group's Google Doc, brainstorm and draft a warranty disclaimer for the computer that Sarah Seller wants to sell. Each student should do his- or her own writing, but feel free to consult your classmates.

8.100 (L) Basics: A Somewhat-Barebones Contract (Part 1)

We will spend some time discussing "A Somewhat-Barebones Contract" in the Supplement to get an overview of some important issues that might confront a contract drafter or reviewer.

In your small groups, and without looking at the answers in the footnotes until you're ready to answer, discuss the following and be prepared to "report out" to the class as a whole.

1. Title: Why not just have the title be “Agreement”? [19]

2. First paragraph: What is a one-word name by which this first, unnumbered paragraph is typically called? [20]

3. First paragraph: The words “Agreement,” “Buyer,” and “Seller” are in bold-faced type and surrounded by quotation marks and parentheses. Why? [21]

4. First paragraph: Why does this paragraph state (i) the type of organization of Betty's Used Computers, LLC ("BUCL") and (ii) the state in which BUCL is organized? [22]

5. First paragraph: Why does this paragraph state Buyer’s principal place of business? [23]

6. First paragraph: Why does this paragraph state Buyer’s initial address for notice? Why not just put that information in the Notices provision (if there is one)? [24]

7. First paragraph: Why state Sam’s place of residence (which is not necessarily the same as his initial address for notice)? [25]

8.101 (L) Preamble (Billy Buyer computer sale)

1. FACTS: Billy Buyer wants the computer-sale contract to recite, not his name, but his business name, "Bravo Builders" (just that – no Inc. or LLC or anything like that).

QUESTION: Any problem with that?

2. FACTS: It turns out that Billy Buyer is 15 years old.

QUESTION: Any issues there? [26]

3. ALTERNATE FACTS: Billy is 28 years old, a successful Internet entrepreneur who is worth $300 million. Billy wants the contract with Sarah Seller to be in the name of his new business venture, Beta-Beta Research LLC. BBR will be renting from Sarah (not buying) a custom-built supercomputer for one year, for an annual rent of $1 million.

QUESTION: Any financial issues here? How might those issues be addressed? [27]

EXERCISE: As Sarah's lawyer, in your small group's Google Doc, brainstorm and draft whatever provisions you think would be appropriate to address Sarah's financial concerns. Each student should do his- or her own writing, but feel free to consult your classmates.

8.101.1 In the news / SPP: SCA Promotions v. Yahoo!

SCA Promotions, Inc. v. Yahoo!, Inc., No. 15-11254 (5th Cir. Aug. 21, 2017):

  • Yahoo sponsors an NCAA perfect-bracket contest with a $1 billion prize [note how "billion" is spelled out] to any contestant who has a perfect bracket.
  • Yahoo contracts with SCA to pay the $1 billion if necessary and to obtain underwriting coverage for the fee (presumably from reinsurers).
  • Under the contract, Yahoo is to pay SCA a fee of $11 million.
  • The policy establishes target dates for Yahoo to cancel the contract, with stated penalty amounts:

Cancellation fees: Upon notice to SCA to be provided no later than fifteen (15) minutes to Tip-Off of the initial game, Yahoo may cancel the contract. In the event the contract is cancelled, Yahoo will be entitled to a refund of all amounts paid to SCA subject to the cancellation fees set forth in this paragraph. The parties hereto stipulate that the contract shall be signed on or before December 31, 2013. Should the signed contract be cancelled after that time and before January 15, 2014 a cancellation penalty of 25% of the fee will be paid to SCA. Should the signed contract be cancelled between January 16, 2014 and February 15, 2014, a cancellation penalty of 50% of the fee will be paid to SCA by Sponsor. Should the signed contract be cancelled after February 16, 2014, a cancellation penalty of 75% of the fee will be paid to SCA by Sponsor. [Slip op. at 3, emphasis added.]

And rewritten for easier reading:

[a] Cancellation fees: Upon notice to SCA to be provided no later than fifteen (15) minutes to Tip-Off of the initial game, Yahoo may cancel the contract.

[b] In the event the contract is cancelled, Yahoo will be entitled to a refund of all amounts paid to SCA subject to the cancellation fees set forth in this paragraph.

[c] The parties hereto stipulate that the contract shall be signed on or before December 31, 2013.

[d] Should the signed contract be cancelled after that time and before January 15, 2014 a cancellation penalty of 25% of the fee will be paid to SCA.

[e] Should the signed contract be cancelled between January 16, 2014 and February 15, 2014, a cancellation penalty of 50% of the fee will be paid to SCA by Sponsor.

[f] Should the signed contract be cancelled after February 16, 2014, a cancellation penalty of 75% of the fee will be paid to SCA by Sponsor.

  • Yahoo paid an initial $1.1 million deposit (10% of the agreed $11 million fee) on January 13, 2014.
  • On January 21, 2014, Quicken Loans Inc. reveals that it is sponsoring a similar $1 billion perfect bracket contest with Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway.
  • Yahoo ditches its own contest — Yahoo and Quicken agree that Yahoo would become another co-sponsor of the Quicken contest.
  • On January 27, 2014, Yahoo cancels the SCA contract and demands repayment of the entire $1.1 million initial deposit, with no cancellation penalty.
  • SCA sues for $4.4 million, i.e., $5.5 million (50% of the $11 million fee per paragraph [e] above) less the $1.1 million deposit already paid.
  • Yahoo claims that "the fee" in paragraphs [d] through [f] refer to the $1.1 million deposit and not the $11 million fee.

The district court granted summary judgment for Yahoo and ordered a refund of $550,000 (half the $1.1 million deposit).

The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered in favor of SCA.

EXERCISE: In your small group's Google Doc, redraft paragraph [e] above to try to avoid the controversy in the last bullet point above about the meaning of "the fee."

QUESTION: Does paragraph [c] above make sense? What would be another way to approach the subject?

8.102 (L) Basics: A Somewhat-Barebones Contract (Part 2)

We will continue discussing "A Somewhat-Barebones Contract" in the Supplement to get an overview of some important issues that might confront a contract drafter or reviewer.

8. What's a romanette? [28]

9. Section 1: What advantages might there be in including so much information about "the deal” in this paragraph? [29]

10. Section 1: This contract does not include recitals, a.k.a. "whereas" clauses, nor "words of agreement," e.g., "The parties agree as follows." Why might that be? [30]

11. Section 1: “Seller will sell” and “Buyer will buy”: Why includes both of these? [31]

12. Section 1: “Seller will sell”: Why not “Seller shall sell”? [32]

13. Section 1: In the term "USD $800," what does the prefix "USD" mean? [33]

14. Section 1.3: What’s the point of this section – as a matter of law, aren't the parties free, if they so agree, to change the Closing Time and Closing Location? [34]

15. Section 1.4: What is a "safe harbor" clause in the context of a contract (as opposed to a statute or regulation)? [35]

16. Section 1.4: What’s the significance of “for the avoidance of doubt”? [36]

17. Section 1.4: Any danger in using “for example”? [37]

18. Section 2: What types of agreement are likely to include this kind of clause? [38]

19. Section 2: Note the phrasing, “Seller will not use the Computer ….” How else could that be phrased? Is there any significance to the “will not” phrasing? [39]

20. Section 2.1: In the real world, would this sort of exception normally be included in a draft agreement prepared by Buyer? Contrariwise, if Seller had drafted the agreement, then would Seller have included section 2 at all? [40]

21. Section 3: “Seller will cause” a clean install of Mac OS X: Why phrase the obligation this way — why not just say that Seller will perform a clean install? [41]

22. Section 3: What type of covenant is this? [42]

23. Section 4: What term might traditional contract drafters use here instead of “prerequisite”? [43]

24. Section 4: Why include this section? [44]

25. Section 4: Why cross-reference to “the obligation stated in section 3,” instead of just saying, “Seller’s obligation to do a clean install is a prerequisite ….”? [45]

8.103 (L) Basics: A Somewhat-Barebones Contract (Part 3)

This exercise relates (again) to "A Somewhat-Barebones Contract" in the Supplement (at page 1). The question numbering below continues the previous sequence.

26. Section 5: If Seller fails to remove the Grateful Dead decals: Would Seller be in breach? Would Buyer be able to walk away? [46]

27. Section 6: (i) Why use the phrase, “so far as he knows, without any particular investigation”? (ii) Why not simply say "to Seller's knowledge"? [Note how in this paragraph the question marks are outside the quotation marks because the question marks aren't part of the text that's being quoted.] [47]

28. Section 7: What options does Buyer have if Seller doesn’t allow Buyer to inspect the Computer before Closing? [48]

29. Section 7: Why use the term “commercially reasonable” in this section? [49]

30. Section 8.1: Why not use active voice here? [50]

31. Section 8.1: This provision uses “must be paid” for emphasis — what are some other possibilities for phrasing this term? [51]

32. Section 8.1: Any dangers in payment by cashier’s check? What are some possible alternative forms of payment? [52]

33. Section 9: This section uses the term "notarized." Does that likely refer to an acknowledgement, or to a jurat? [53]

34. Signature blocks: Is there any danger in having the signature blocks on a separate page for easier signing and FAXing of just the signature pages instead of the whole agreement? [54]

35. Signature blocks: Why does the date line say "Date signed" instead of just "Date"? [55]

8.104 (L) Backdating a contract at the end of the quarter

FACTS:

  • It's the last week of March. Your client Big Public Software Company ("BPSC") has a calendar-year fiscal year, and its shares are traded on Nasdaq. That means it must file financial reports with the SEC within a certain number of days after each March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31 (commonly referred to as Q1 through Q4 respectively, or sometimes 1Q through 4Q).
  • BPSC's sales people are working on a huge deal. If the deal closes, BPSC will "make the number," that is, its earnings will match analysts' expectations; if not, BPSC will "miss," and the price of its stock likely will nosedive.
  • The BPSC sales people stay late at the office on March 31, hoping to iron out the last negotiation points. But the parties don't actually come to agreement until April 3.

QUESTION 1. On April 3, BPSC's vice president of sales calls you with an urgent question: Can the parties backdate their signatures to March 31, so that BPSC can book the sale in Q1 so that it won't "miss"?

QUESTION 2: What personal motives might the VP of sales have for backdating the contract signatures? Consider, for example:

  • financial motivations
  • non-financial motivations

8.105 (L) Agreements to agree or to negotiate in good faith

FACTS: Alice and Bob are negotiating a contract for Alice to provide services for Bob, but they can't agree on just what services Alice will be obligated to provide. QUESTION: What are some of the pros and cons of having the contract say simply that they'll agree to agree later on that issue? [56]

FACTS: Same facts as above. QUESTION: What are some of the pros and cons of having the contract state that Alice and Bob will negotiate the scope of Alice's services in good faith? [57]

8.106 (L) Amendments - unilateral

8.106.1 Facts

  • Your client is Videos Now!, a start-up video streaming service that wants to compete with NetFlix.
  • VN! has asked you to draft a set of terms of service for its Web site — the idea is that VN!'s users will be required to agree to the terms of service by clicking on an "I agree" button when they register to use the VN! service.
  • VN! wants the terms of service to include, among other things:
    • A mandatory arbitration clause that, among other things, prohibits class-action arbitration; and
    • A unilateral-amendment clause stating that VN! can modify the terms of service at any time.

8.106.2 Questions

  1. On the facts given, would the terms of service be enforceable? Explain.
  2. How would you advise Videos Now! about its request for these two particular clauses? Explain. Consider (perhaps among other things):
    • whether any enforceability problems might arise
    • what if anything could be done to modify the clause(s) to give them a better shot at enforceability.

8.106.3 Suggested reading

8.107 (L) Amendments and waivers in writing

8.107.1 Facts

  • Seller, a vendor of widgets, and Buyer have a contract under which Seller will deliver widgets to Buyer whenever Buyer submits and Seller accepts a written purchase order.
  • The contract states the pricing of the widgets, and also states that shipping charges are extra.
  • The contract contains a clause requiring amendments to the contract and to any purchase order to be in writing.
  • The contract contains a similar clause requiring waivers to be in writing.
  • During their business together, employees of the parties exchange a lot of emails, instant messages, and cell-phone text messages.
  • Buyer submits its purchase order #7833; Seller accepts the PO.
  • In a subsequent text-message exchange with a Buyer employee, a Seller employee says "whoops - can't deliver PO # 7833 on Tues – how about Fri?" The Buyer employee responds "np" Seller's employee responds "thx"
  • Later, the same employees talk to each other via Skype video about the same purchase order. The Seller employee tells the Buyer employee that Seller's costs have gone up, and that Seller is going to have to charge Buyer a total price that is 3% higher than the (previously-agreed) pricing stated in the P.O. The Buyer employee says "we can live with that if you can throw in free shipping."

8.107.2 Instructions

For this problem set, half of the teams in the class are attorneys for Buyer; the other half are attorneys for Seller.

8.107.3 Questions

  1. Apropos of the the text-message exchange:
    (a) What if any additional facts might you want to find out?
    (b) Given only the stated facts, how would you initially advise your client about whether the text-message exchange constitutes a binding amendment? Explain.
    (c) What might you say to the other side to try to get past this situation? Explain.
  2. Apropos of the Skype video conversation:

    (a) What if any additional facts might you want to find out?

    (b) Given only the stated facts, how would you initially advise your client about whether the Skype video conversation constitutes a binding amendment? Explain.

    (c) What might you say to the other side to try to get past this situation? Explain.

  3. 18.3 Buyer's CFO claims that Buyer is now entitled to free shipping on future orders. Advise the client and deal with the other side.
  4. 18.4 How, if at all, could the contract drafter have taken advantage of New York state's General Obligations Law § 15-301? (Careful — it's a two-part answer.)

8.107.4 Suggested reading

8.108 (L) Atari indemnification provision

From section 11 of an Atari consulting contract at https://goo.gl/TvfYKa (onecle.com via archive.org):

Consultant agrees to indemnify and hereby does indemnify, defend and hold harmless Atari, its affiliates, and their respective officers, directors, employees, distributors, agents, customers and licensees from and against any liability, damage or expenses (including without limitation attorneys' fees) based on the untruth or breach of any representation, warranty or covenant contained in this agreement.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Given the meaning of indemnify (see [BROKEN LINK: IndemnDefn][BROKEN LINK: IndemnDefn]), what does the phrase, "and hereby does indemnify" literally mean, and does that make business sense?
  2. The end of this provision refers to the "untruth" of any "covenant"; any thoughts about that?
  3. Does Atari gain anything by asking for this indemnity obligation, as opposed to relying on straightforward breach-of-contract remedies? See [BROKEN LINK: IndemnVsBreach][BROKEN LINK: IndemnVsBreach].
  4. If you were representing Consultant, what might you say about the list of beneficiaries of this indemnity obligation?
  5. If you were representing Consultant, how might you try to negotiate less-onerous terms for this provision?

8.109 (L) Assignment of employment agreement

8.109.1 Suggested reading

8.109.2 Facts

A friend of yours is about to start a new job. Her new employer has asked her to sign an employment-agreement form. She has asked you to take a look at it.

  • The employment agreement says that the employee may not assign the agreement.
  • The employment agreement is silent as to whether the employer may assign the agreement.

8.109.3 Questions

  1. Can your friend assign the employment agreement, that is, hire someone to do her job for her?
  2. If instead the agreement were silent on the employee's right to assign, could your friend assign the agreement?
  3. Can the employer assign the employment agreement, e.g., if the employer decides to sell off, to another company, the division in which the employee works?
  4. What if any changes to the employment agreement assignment language might you suggest that the employee request? (Hint: Put yourself in the shoes of the employer.)
  5. Could your friend sue you or your law firm for malpractice if she didn't like the way things turned out with her employer? What if any steps could you take to reduce that risk to your career and your personal net worth?

8.110 (L) Assignment of Mickey-Dee franchise agreement

8.110.2 Facts

  • You represent Smith, LLC, a family business that operates three Mickey-Dee franchised restaurants in Houston.
  • Smith, LLC owns the land and buildings of the restaurants, which are built to specifications developed by the global franchising firm Mickey-Dee Incorporated.
  • The restaurants all use trademarks owned by Mickey-Dee Incorporated, including the signage, logos, the name "Mickey-Dee," uniform styles etc.
  • The franchise agreement is silent about assignability of the agreement.
  • Smith, LLC wants to sell its three franchised restaurants to Jones, Inc., another family business.

8.110.3 Questions

  • What if anything could Mickey-Dee Incorporated do if Smith, LLC were to assign the franchise agreement to Jones, Inc.?

8.111 (L) Assignment of port operating agreement

FACTS:

(A) You represent Port Operations, Inc., which operates the Port of Bayou City under a contract with Harris County.

(B) The contract states that the contract may not be assigned without the County's prior written consent.

(C) Port Operations receives a buy-out offer from a Saudi shipping magnate who wants to do a "roll-up" of port-operating companies throughout the world.

(D) The County demands a $10 million fee in return for its consent to assignment of the contract.

QUESTION 1. If the contract didn't have an assignment-consent requirement, would the County's consent be required? [58]

QUESTION 2. How much does it matter whether the "roll-up" would take the form of (i) an asset purchase, or (ii) a merger? [59]

QUESTION 3. Name at least two ways in which, during the contract negotiation with the County, Port Operations could have protected its ability to agree to the Saudi buy-out. [60]

QUESTION 4. In your [BROKEN LINK: WorkflowyLinks], draft a provision that would protect Port Operations's ability to agree to the Saudi buy-out.

8.112 (L) Attorneys' fees

  1. FACTS: You represent Buyer, which uses a standard purchase order form with lots of fine print on the back. The attorneys' fees clause in Buyer's PO form says that if Buyer ever successfully sues Seller, then Seller will reimburse Buyer for its reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in the action. QUESTIONS:
    1. On these facts, if Seller sues Buyer for non-payment and wins, will Buyer have to reimburse Seller for its attorneys' fees for the collection action? (Careful – do you know enough facts to make this determination?)
    2. Same question, with California law applying.
    3. Same question, with Texas law applying.
    4. Same facts, but this time Seller sues Buyer and loses, and Texas law applies.
  2. FACTS: A contract provision states as follows: "Alice warrants to Bob that she will pay Bob's attorneys' fees if Bob sues her and wins."
    • QUESTION: Does this work? Why or why not?
    • EXERCISE: Redraft

8.112.1 Suggested reading

  • Notes to the Common Draft attorneys' fees clause (scroll down to Texas and California rules)

8.113 (L) Competitive statements

8.113.1 Facts

  • You represent Big Box Retailer, Inc., which has a contract with Crabapple Computers, Inc. Under the contract, Big Box carries Crabapple's laptop computers, but it is not an exclusive relationship; Big Box also carries laptops made by Crabapple's competitors.
  • The contract says that neither party will disparage the other party or the other party's products or services.
  • Crabapple falls on hard times and has to cut its R&D budget. Its competitors start to bring out fancy new ultra-light, ultra-powerful laptops, while Crabapple's laptops begin to seem clunky by comparison.
  • You get a call from Big Box. A reporter from Laptops Monthly is doing a story on the laptop model. She wants a quote from a Big Box store manager about how Crabapple's products are "clunky."
  • The Big Box people would like to stay on this reporter's good side. They want to know what you think about giving her the quote she wants.

8.113.2 Question

  • How might this situation play out? Consider:
    • Whether the requested "clunky products" statement would be literally true or literally false
      • Whether such a statement might be misleading to the public or otherwise deceptive even if literally true
      • Whether such a statement might be "disparaging" in violation of the contract's non-disparagement clause.
  • 27.2 If you had been involved in negotiating the non-disparagement clause, how (if at all) might you have tried to change it?
  • 27.3 Suppose that during the contract negotiation you had asked to revise the non-disparagement clause, which caused Crabapple's then-CEO (now dead) to throw a fit, and in the end the clause was left unchanged. How might that affect your thinking today?
  • 27.4 [NEW] Can you think of any situations where this omerta clause might cause significant problems for Big Box Retailer?
  • 27.5 [NEW] Suppose that you're negotiating the same clause again in a different deal. From a business perspective, what if any other provisions might you want to ask for to give Big Box Retailer more flexibility and/or business protection?

8.113.3 Suggested reading

8.114 (L) Confidential information

8.114.1 Two-way vs. one-way NDAs

FACTS:
(i) Your client Alice has been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement ("NDA") that was prepared by Bob ("The Other Side").
(ii) Neither Alice nor you have any past history with Bob.
(iii) The NDA's terms apply equally to the confidential information of both Alice and Bob, not just to the confidential information of only one party or the other.
(iv) Alice is in a hurry and asks if it's OK to just sign the NDA, given point (iii) above. DISCUSS.

8.114.2 NDA "sunset" provisions (1)

MORE FACTS for the situation in 8.114.1:
(iv) Alice is the party that would be disclosing her confidential information to Bob.
(v) Bob's draft NDA provides that Bob's confidentiality obligations will expire one year from the effective date of the NDA — EXCEPT THAT for any information that Alice can show is a "trade secret" (as defined in the applicable law), Bob's confidentiality obligations will not expire until the information comes within the scope of one or more of five exclusion categories listed in the NDA, e.g., information that has been published, information that the receiving party gets from another source, etc. DISCUSS.

8.114.3 NDA "sunset" provisions (2)

ALTERNATIVE FACTS for the situation in 8.114.2:
(v) Bob's draft states that Bob's confidentiality obligations will expire one year from the effective date of the NDA — period. Alice wants to know if she can agree to that. DISCUSS.

8.114.4 Injunctive relief (1)

MORE FACTS for the situation in 8.114.1:
(vi) Bob's draft NDA includes a injunctive-relief provision that states that, if Alice breaches the NDA, then Bob will be irreparably harmed and will be entitled to injunctive relief. DISCUSS.

8.114.5 Injunctive relief (2)

MORE FACTS for the situation in 8.114.4:
(vii) The injunctive-relief provision in Bob's draft NDA also states that Alice waives any requirement that Bob post a bond. DISCUSS.

8.115 (L) Confidentiality agreement

8.115.1 Facts

  • You represent Seller, Inc., which is considering signing a confidentiality agreement ("NDA," or nondisclosure agreement) with a potential customer, Buyer, Inc.

8.115.2 Everything is confidential?

The NDA says:

The Receiving Party acknowledges that the Confidential Information is proprietary to the Disclosing Party, has been developed and obtained through great efforts by the Disclosing Party and that Disclosing Party regards all of its Confidential Information as trade secrets.

QUESTION: Are you OK with this?

8.115.3 Whose information should be protected?

The NDA contains blanks to be filled in for who will be the "Disclosing Party" and who will be the "Recipient." QUESTION: What should be filled in?

8.115.4 Time limit on protected disclosures?

QUESTION: Should the NDA include a time limit for when disclosure can be made in confidence? Why or why not?

8.115.5 Subpoenas, etc.

The NDA includes a number of exclusions from the definition of Confidential Information. One of those exclusions is that information subject to a third-party subpoena is not considered Confidential Information.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Would you object to this? Why?
  2. What would be a better alternative?

8.115.6 Remedies

The nondisclosure agreement states: "The Receiving Party acknowledges that any breach or threatened breach of this Agreement by the Receiving Party would result in irreparable harm to the Disclosing Party, entitling the Disclosing Party to temporary and permanent injunctive relief against the breach; the Receiving Party waives any requirement that the Disclosing Party post a bond." You remember seeing this sort of clause in a lot of NDAs.

QUESTION: From Seller's perspective, do you see any problem with this clause?

8.116 (L) Contra proferentem rule

FACTS:

  • You represent Buyer in negotiating a long-term master purchase agreement with Seller.
  • You draft a price-increase clause that limits Seller's permissible price increases to no more than the increase in CPI (and no more than once a year as well).
  • A year later, Seller says it is increasing its price by the percentage stated in a particular CPI published by the U.S. Government for the specific industry in which Seller and Buyer operate. You hadn't known there even was such a thing.
  • Your client Buyer angrily tells you that Seller's price increase must be limited to the (much-lower) increase in the "regular" CPI, namely CPI-U, US City Average, All Items, 1982–1984=100.

QUESTION: On these facts, how might a court rule on Buyer's claim that Seller's price increases must be limited to the increase in CPI-U and not to the increase in the special CPI? [61]

8.117 (L) Counsel representation

FACTS:

  • A partner gives you an assignment to draft a contract, and suggests that you start with a particular prior agreement, which she gives you. You change the parties' names and the business terms in the prior agreement to reflect the current deal.
  • The parties sign the agreement, but the relationship quickly goes south. Your client claims that the other party has breached a particular clause in the contract.
  • The other party claims that the clause in question is too hard to understand — a sentiment with which you privately agree — and that your client had told him that the clause meant something entirely different from what your client is claiming now.
  • The contract does not include an entire-agreement ("integration") clause.
  • The General Provisions section says, among other things, that "Each party has been represented by counsel in negotiating this transaction."
  • Your client confirms, though, that the other side actually wasn't represented by counsel.

QUESTION: How might a court analyze this situation?

8.118 (L) CPI increases in pricing

FACTS:

  1. You represent Buyer in negotiating a long-term master purchase agreement with Seller.
  2. You draft a price-increase clause that limits Seller's permissible price increases to no more than the increase in CPI (and no more than once a year as well).
  3. A year later, Seller says it is increasing its price by the percentage stated in a particular CPI published by the U.S. Government for the specific industry in which Seller and Buyer operate. You hadn't known there even was such a thing.
  4. Your client Buyer angrily tells you that Seller's price increase must be limited to the (much-lower) increase in the "regular" CPI, namely CPI-U, US City Average, All Items, 1982–1984=100.

QUESTIONS:

  1. In this fact situation, to what does "CPI" refer? [62]
  2. In the U.S., where does CPI data usually come from ? [63]
  3. On these facts, how might a court rule on Buyer's claim that Seller's price increases must be limited to the increase in CPI-U and not to the increase in the special CPI? [64]

8.119 (L) Defense against indemnified claims

(Much of this should seem quite familiar.)

8.119.1 Facts

(A) Alice's contract with Bob obligates her to reimburse Bob for his attorney fees and expenses in defending against certain third-party claims.

(B) A third party, Carol, brings such a claim against Bob — who hires Skadden Arps (a top NYC firm) to defend him against Carol's claim.

(C) Alice has plenty of money to pay legal bills.

8.119.2 Questions

Work in your small groups to answer these questions, but each student is to handwrite answers on his or her own piece of paper. (We'll exchange papers among groups.)

1. Handwrite a list of what incentives might motivate Skadden to do things, or not do things, when it conducts Bob's defense.

2. Handwrite a list of two ways that Alice, during negotiation of her contract with Bob, could have limited her financial exposure to Bob's cost of defending against Carol's claim.

8.119.3 More facts

(D) Alice's contract with Bob also requires her to indemnify Bob against any monetary awards resulting from such third-party claims.

(E) Bob neglects to mention to either Alice or Skadden that Carol had filed her third-party claim weeks before, and that when Bob failed to file a timely answer, Carol moved for and obtained a default judgment for a large amount of money.

8.119.4 Another question

Handwrite a list of two ways that Alice, during negotiation of her contract with Bob, could have limited her exposure to Bob's screw-up.

8.119.5 Alternate facts

(F) Alice's contract with Bob requires her to provide Bob with a defense, as opposed to reimbursing Bob for his defense expenses.

(G) Alice engages her regular lawyer, Andy, to conduct Bob's defense against Carol's claim.

(H) Bob finds that he and Andy don't get along so well.

8.119.6 Question

During negotiation of the contract, what sort of clause could Bob have asked to be included in the contract to protect him against this uncomfortable situation?

8.119.7 More alternative facts

(I) It turns out that Alice can't afford to pay Bob's legal bills for defending against Carol's claim.

8.119.8 Another question

What if anything might Bob have done during contract negotiation to mitigate this problem?

8.120 (L) Diet supplements

SUGGESTED READING: The following excerpts from the NY Times piece, New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers (Feb. 3, 2015)

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers on Monday of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves.

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels.

The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

 *  *  *

Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice.

At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.

Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots.

And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.

The attorney general sent the four retailers cease-and-desist letters on Monday and demanded that they explain what procedures they use to verify the ingredients in their supplements.

(Emphasis and extra paragraphing added.)

SCAN: The Common Draft clause headings to get ideas for tools to use in the exercise below.

FACTS:

  • You represent NileRiver.com, Inc., a new client. NileRiver is a growing Internet retailer that is competing with, and consciously patterning itself on, Amazon.com.
  • The company sells house-brand diet supplements; it uses some of the same (unidentified) supplement suppliers as do GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart (the retailers mentioned in the New York Times piece).
  • The company's executives have called your office to ask for an urgent meeting to discuss the New York Times piece.
  • You know

QUESTIONS: In your groups, brainstorm and write group answers to the following:

  1. What players, that is, participants in the business- and legal worlds, might "take an interest" in NileRiver's supplements? (Hint: Consider who might stand to benefit, and how, from discovering deficiences in those supplements.)
  2. In what general ways might those "interests" of such other participants affect NileRiver.com?
  3. In general terms, what business practices could NileRiver.com adopt — and require its suppliers to adopt — to protect NileRiver's customers (and itself)? Hint: In this article, search for the term "old nuclear phrase."
  4. All business practices cost money. What are some sources of money that might be tapped to pay for the business practices that you come up with?
  5. What are some sources of leverage that NileRiver might use to encourage its existing suppliers agree to adopt such business practices? (Hint: Don't limit your thinking to contract provisions alone.)
  6. What are some actions that NileRiver could take to increase the company's confidence that its suppliers are in fact conforming to those practices that they agreed to adopt? (Note the use of the term increase the company's confidence, as opposed to ensure, in the previous sentence.)
  7. What are some actions NileRiver could take if it discovered that one of its suppliers was not conforming to the agreed business practices?
  8. What might NileRiver want its suppliers(s) to do in the event of a legal investigation like the one referred to in the New York Times piece?

8.121 (L) Early neutral evaluation

8.121.1 Reading assignment

8.121.2 Questions

  1. What do you think the principal benefit of ENE would be?
  2. Why might a party not want to commit to ENE?
  3. Name three reasons that a lawyer might not want her client to have to go to ENE. (Cynical thinking is OK here.)
  4. What is the most important way in which ENE differs from arbitration?
  5. Is ENE automatic, or must it be triggered by some action?
  6. In ENE, is it a concern that the trial judge might be influenced by the neutral evaluator's views? Why or why not?

8.122 (L) Employment agreements

  1. REVIEW QUESTION: Under Texas law, what two basic requirements must a post-employment noncompetition provision meet?
  2. FACTS: An employment agreement for use in Texas contains a choice-of-law provision stating that New York law will apply. QUESTION: How likely is it that a U.S. court would give effect to that choice of law provision?
  3. QUESTION: Same question, but for a choice of forum provision stating that all litigation must be in New York.
  4. QUESTION: What if the choice-of-law provision stated that California law would apply?
  5. QUESTION: What is a "no-moonlighting" provision in an employment agreement? How does it differ from a non-competition provision?
  6. QUESTION: What is a "no-solicitation" provision in an employment agreement? How does it differ from a non-competition provision?
  7. QUESTION: Should an employment agreement form specify the frequency of the employee's pay periods (e.g., twice a month, every two weeks, or whatever)?
  8. QUESTION: Why might an employment agreement obligate the employee to abide by the confidentiality obligations that the employee owes to former employers?
  9. FACTS: An employer's "policy manual" includes a binding arbitration provision with a class-action prohibition. QUESTION: What if any legal effect might that provision have on the employee's right to join in a class action against the employer, e.g., for discrimination?
  10. QUESTION: If an employee resigns with two weeks' notice, must the employer allow the employee to work out (and get paid for) the notice period?

8.123 (L) Equitable relief clause review & revision

This is a provision from an actual contract form provided by Customer. ASSIGNMENT: As the attorney for Provider, build a list of issues to discuss with Provider and/or with Customer, as follows:

  • substantive issues; and
  • "necessary" stylistic changes, e.g., for enhanced client readability and/or to R.O.O.F.

x.x Equitable Relief. Provider acknowledges and agrees that there can be no adequate remedy at law for any breach of Provider’s obligations or covenants under Sections [omitted], and that any such breach will result in irreparable harm to Customer. Provider agrees that upon any such breach or any threat thereof, Customer will be entitled to appropriate equitable relief in addition to whatever remedies it might have at law (without being required to post a bond or other security).

8.124 (L) Escalation of disputes

8.124.1 Suggested reading

8.124.2 Questions

  1. Under the sample clause language, must the parties' CEOs get involved in escalating a dispute if lower-level managers can't resolve it? Explain.
  2. When might it not be reasonable to expect the parties' CEOs to get involved? Explain.
  3. Does the Common Draft clause adequately cover the subject raised in Question 2? Explain.
  4. Is escalation automatic, or must there be some triggering event? Explain.
  5. Under the sample clause language, what happens if a lower-level manager for one party simply folds her arms and says "No, we're not taking this to upper management; I'm the decider here." Explain.

8.125 (L) Feedback clauses in nondisclosure agreements

One of my blog readers, a paralegal for a USD $13B (revenue) multinational corporation, asked me my thoughts about the following clauses, which she said her customers were increasingly asking her company to agree to in confidentiality agreements.

Clause 1 (extra paragraphing, paragraph numbering, and bullets added):

1.1 Feedback: Vendor may (but is not obligated to) provide feedback or input to Company based on Confidential Information.

1.2 Any and all such feedback (including any and all test results, error data, reports or other information) shall be the exclusive property of Company, and/or are hereby assigned to Company by Vendor at no cost to Company.

1.3 Company may use such feedback in any manner and for any purpose, without limitation, liability or obligation to Company and its successors and assigns.

1.4 Vendor warrants and represents[:]

  • that it owns an intellectual property rights in and to the Feedback and
  • that the Feedback does not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of any other third party.

Clause 2:

2.1 Feedback Clause. Any ideas, suggestions, guidance, or other information disclosed by Vendor regarding the design of Company’s components, including design and design for manufacturability feedback, and all intellectual property rights therein and thereto, shall be collectively deemed “Feedback.”

2.2 Notwithstanding [another section], Company shall own all Feedback and all such Feedback shall be deemed to be the Confidential Information of Company and not Vendor.

2.3 Accordingly, Vendor hereby assigns to Company all of its right, title, and interest in and to such Feedback.

2.4 To the extent that the foregoing assignment is ineffective for whatever reason, Vendor agrees to grant and hereby grants to Company a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to grant and authorize sublicenses) to make, have made, use, import, offer for sale, sell, reproduce, distribute, modify, adapt, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise exploit such Feedback without restriction.

EXERCISE: As counsel for Vendor, how might you respond to these various proposed provisions?

8.126 (L) Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) (in development)

8.126.1 Form 10-K

What is a Form 10-K? What kinds of companies care about it, and why?

SUGGESTED READING: The beginning of the SEC's How to Read a 10-K

8.126.2 Form 10-Q

How does a Form 10-Q differ from a Form 10-K?

SUGGESTED READING:

8.126.3 GAAP and the earnings process

Buyer sends a purchase order for 50,000 widgets to Widget Supplier, Inc. (WSI) at the list price of $1.00 each. WSI has the required number of widgets in inventory.

As previously requested by WSI's sales representative, Buyer wire-transfers a 50% deposit to WSI.

QUESTION: If WMI does its accounting in conformance with GAAP, what percentage of the $50K order can WSI immediately book as revenue?

RESOURCES: Wikipedia

8.126.4 Significance of GAAP

Why do publicly-traded companies care about GAAP?

SUGGESTED READING: The SEC's How to Read a 10-K (read the beginning, then scroll down to Item 8)

8.126.5 GAAP in Europe

What if any significance does "GAAP" have in Europe?

RESOURCES:

8.127 (L) Honeywell purchase-order warranties

BASIC (hypothetical) FACTS:

• Alice is an "account executive" (translation: sales rep) for ABC Corporation of Houston, which makes specialty chemicals. Alice is excited to have landed a purchase order from the local office of UOP LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honeywell (both are real companies); this is the first order that ABC has received from UOP, which Alice hopes will turn into a steady customer.

• The P.O. says that the terms and conditions are set out in Honeywell's Standard Purchase Order Terms and Conditions for Goods and Services (see [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellPO] and the online PDF).

• Without consulting you or any other lawyer, Alice countersigns UOP's P.O. and FAXes it back to UOP together with an order confirmation form that, by sheer conincidence, contains language substantially identical to section 1 of [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellTOS].

• Alice then turns in the P.O. for processing. In due course, ABC's fulfillment department ships the order to UOP.

• Unbeknowst to Alice, UOP uses ABC's specialty chemicals as a component of a specialized catalyst assembly for a petrochemical refinery in Pasadena.

• The refinery experiences problems with the UOP catalyst assembly. This causes the refinery to be shut down for an extended period. The refinery loses significant revenue that it otherwise would have earned from selling the refined products that the refinery was unable to manufacture because of the shutdown.

QUESTION 1: Which of ABC and UOP are "merchants" with regard to ABC's specialty chemicals? (See the Common Draft commentary on merchant status.) [65]

QUESTION 2: On these facts, are the P.O. terms binding? (See [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellPOAcceptance] of the Honeywell P.O. terms and conditions and UCC § 2-207.) [66]

QUESTION 3: Suppose that Alice had not FAXed back ABC's order acknowledgement form. On those facts would the UOP P.O. terms be binding? [67]

QUESTION 4: Would UOP's refinery customer be able to sue ABC for breach of warranty? [68]

QUESTION 5: If the refinery were to sue UOP for breach of warranty, would UOP be able to cross-claim against ABC for the attorney fees that UOP spent in defending against the refinery's claim? [69]

QUESTION 6: Of the various [BROKEN LINK: HONBPOWARRANTY] in the Honeywell purchase order, which one(s) would UOP and/or the refinery likely claim were breached? [70]

QUESTION 7: Under the Honeywell purchase order, would ABC's damages be limited in any way? [71]

8.128 (L) Indemnity (1)

1. What is the difference between an indemnity and a warranty? [72]

2. IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: IF: Alice agrees to indemnify Bob against damage arising from occurrence of Event X; THEN: This reduces the risk to the parties associated with the (possible) occurrence of Event X. (CAUTION: Read this carefully.) [73]

3. IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: An indemnity obligation allocates at least some of the financial risk of Event X. [74]

4. IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: The following is an acceptable conventional phrasing: Alice hereby indemnifies Bob against any damage Bob might incur if it rains tomorrow. [75]

8.129 (L) Indemnity – outside-counsel fees

Suppose that:

  • You draft an indemnity obligation that does not expressly require the subcontractor to defend your client, the general contractor, from claims, but merely obligates the subcontractor to indemnify the general contractor.
  • An employee of the subcontractor writes a letter to the general contractor, asserting a claim. Assume for this purpose that the employee's claim comes within the scope of the subcontractor's indemnity obligation.
  • The general contractor spends some money on outside-counsel fees investigating the claim.
  • The general contractor and the subcontractor employee reach a settlement agreement, with the general contractor paying the employee a nominal sum — but the fees and expenses billed by the general contractor's outside counsel for investigating the claim are not insignificant.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Must the subcontractor reimburse the general contractor for its outside-counsel fees and expenses?
  2. Would your answer be different if all of this were taking place in Los Angeles instead of Houston? Cite the relevant authority.

8.130 (L) Indemnities — knock-for-knock

You represent General Contractor ("GC"), which has won a bid to build a skyscraper in the middle of Memorial Park in Houston.

As is customary, GC will hire a number of subcontractors. GC wants your firm to draft a template contract for use with the subcontractors.

The supervising partner at your firm asks you to draft a "knock for knock" indemnity agreement.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Under Texas law, could a knock-for-knock indemnity agreement even be enforceable on these facts?
  2. Under Louisiana law, would a knock-for-knock indemnity agreement even be enforceable on these facts?
  3. Assume arguendo that Texas law permits knock-for-knock indemnities in these circumstances. Are there any particular requirements that the contract language would have to meet to be enforceable?
  4. Under Texas law, how could you make an indemnity obligation "conspicuous"?
  5. Assume arguendo that a knock-for-knock agreement would not be per se unenforceable under Texas law. Draft a basic clause to that effect. Feel free to adapt whatever language you encounter in your research.

8.131 (L) Spontaneously-combusting widgets

FACTS:

  1. Alice manufactures electronic widgets. Each widget has a battery that is sealed into the widget and not replaceable.
  2. Bob manufactures electronic gadgets that include electronic widgets.
  3. Bob enters into a contract with Alice to buy electronic widgets from her.
  4. The contract includes, among other provisions:
    • a warranty that the widgets do not contain any defects in design or manufacture;
    • a provision requiring Alice to indemnify Bob against any harm Bob suffers from defects in the widgets; and
    • an exclusion of incidental- and consequential damages.
  5. Bob takes delivery of a large quantity of Alice's widgets and stores them in an appropriate storage room.
  6. In the storage room, the batteries in several of Alice's widgets spontaneously catch fire, resulting in major damage and causing significant "down time" for Bob's gadget-manufacturing operations. (Think: Hoverboards.)
  7. Citing the indemnity provision, Bob demands that Alice reimburse him for the cost of:
    • repairs;
    • replacement of the damaged contents of the storage room;
    • the travel expenses that Bob incurred in going to China and India to check out alternative sources of widgets;
    • the profits that Bob lost from the manufacturing down time.

QUESTIONS:

  1. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: Alice need not reimburse Bob because an indemnity provision covers claims by third parties against the protected party, not direct claims by the protected party against the indemnifying party.
  2. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: If Bob sues Alice for breach of her indemnity obligation, Alice can probably get Bob's claim for lost profits thrown out early (by moving for partial summary judgment) as barred by the contract's exclusion of consequential damages.
  3. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: If Alice had negotiated the indemnity provision to cover only third-party claims, the provision likely would be enforceable.
  4. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: Alice can probably get Bob's claim for travel expenses dismissed on partial summary judgment as barred by the contract's exclusion of incidental damages.

8.131.1 Exercise: Defense against indemnified claims

FACTS:


  1. (A) Alice's contract with Bob obligates her to reimburse Bob for his attorney fees and expenses in defending against certain third-party claims.
    (B) A third party, Carol, brings such a claim against Bob — who hires Skadden Arps (a top NYC firm) to defend him against Carol's claim.
    (C) Alice has plenty of money to pay legal bills.
    QUESTION: Speculate about what incentives might motivate Skadden in conducting Bob's defense.
    QUESTION: Name two ways that Alice, during negotiation of her contract with Bob, could have limited her financial exposure to Bob's cost of defending against Carol's claim.
  2. MORE FACTS:
    (D) Alice's contract with Bob also requires her to indemnify Bob against any monetary awards resulting from such third-party claims.
    (E) Bob neglects to mention to either Alice or Skadden that Carol had filed her third-party claim weeks before, and that when Bob failed to file a timely answer, Carol moved for and obtained a default judgment for a large amount of money.
    QUESTION: Name two ways that Alice, during negotiation of her contract with Bob, could have limited her exposure to Bob's screw-up.
  3. ALTERNATE FACTS:
    (F) Alice's contract with Bob requires her to provide Bob with a defense, as opposed to reimbursing Bob for his defense expenses.
    (G) Alice engages her regular lawyer, Andy, to conduct Bob's defense against Carol's claim.
    (H) Bob finds that he and Andy don't get along so well.
    QUESTION: During negotiation of the contract, what sort of clause could Bob have asked to be included in the contract to protect him against this uncomfortable situation?
  4. ALTERNATE FACTS:
    (I) It turns out that Alice can't afford to pay Bob's legal bills for defending against Carol's claim.
    QUESTION: What if anything might Bob have done during contract negotiation to mitigate this problem?

8.131.2 Reading

Texas indemnification law:

Anti-indemnity statutes:

Knock-for-knock indemnities:

8.132 (L) Indemnity: Basic questions

QUESTION 1: How does an indemnity relate to a warranty? [76]

QUESTION 2: IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: IF: Alice agrees to indemnify Bob against damage arising from occurrence of Event X; THEN: This reduces the risk to the parties associated with the (possible) occurrence of Event X. (CAUTION: Read this carefully.) [77]

QUESTION 3: IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: An indemnity obligation allocates at least some of the financial risk of Event X. [78]

QUESTION 4. IF FALSE, EXPLAIN WHY: The following is an acceptable conventional phrasing: Alice hereby indemnifies Bob against any damage Bob might incur if it rains tomorrow. [79]

8.133 (L) Indemnity (Lockheed-Martin)

FACTS: You represent a supplier that wants to sell components to Lockheed Martin to use in C-130 transport aircraft. In Lockheed's standard purchase-order terms and conditions ("T&Cs"), you see the following (this is true):

  1. INDEMNITY

SELLER shall defend, indemnify, and hold harmless LOCKHEED MARTIN, its officers, directors, employees, consultants, agents, affiliates, successors, permitted assigns and customers from and against all losses, costs, claims, causes of action, damages, liabilities, and expenses, including attorney’s fees, all expenses of litigation and/or settlement, and court costs, arising from any act or omission of SELLER, its officers, employees, agents, suppliers, or subcontractors at any tier, in the performance of any of its obligations under this Contract.

HYPOTHETICAL: Lockheed mistakenly orders the wrong components. Supplier timely fills the order. Lockheed's people correctly install the components into airplanes, but not noticing that the components are the wrong ones. [In reality, this would be unlikely to happen.] One of the planes crashes, allegedly because the components were the wrong ones; people are killed and their survivors sue Lockheed.

QUESTIONS

  1. Would Supplier's indemnity obligation apply?
  2. What factors might affect Supplier's overall legal expenses here?
  3. What are (at least) two ways that the above indemnity language might be revised to make the business risk more acceptable to Supplier?
  4. MORE FACTS: Supplier's business people decide that they're going to sign the contract even with the indemnity provision as originally written. QUESTION: What would you advise them to do?

8.134 (L) Insurance

8.134.1 Resources

8.134.2 Facts

  • You represent ChemCo, which owns and operates a chemical refinery in Pasadena.
  • ChemCo has a periodic maintenance shutdown scheduled for some of its equipment scheduled for July. ChemCo is interested in engaging Provider to do some of the maintenance work. Provider's workers would be coming onto ChemCo's site for this purpose.
  • Provider has not only commercial general liability ("CGL") insurance coverage, but also professional-liability coverage, also knownn as errors-and-omissions ("E&O") coverage.
  • The ChemCo manager with whom you are working wants Provider to designate ChemCo as an "additional insured" on Provider's E&O policy. The manager reasons that this will give ChemCo an independent bucket of money against which it can make claims.

8.134.3 Questions

  1. What types of insurance coverage should ChemCo ask Provider to carry for this purpose?
  2. Should ChemCo ask for Provider's policy to be an "occurrence" policy or a "claims-made" policy?
  3. Should ChemCo ask to be named as an additional insured on Provider's policy? Why?
  4. Would you expect Provider to push back in response to the additional-insured requirement? Why or why not?
  5. Would ChemCo actually be able to make claims against Provider's E&O policy?
  6. How would you advise the ChemCo manager about whether, and how, to proceed with his idea about making ChemCo an additional insured? [Discuss with your partner(s).]

8.134.4 Negotiation strategies

If you represent a seller, should your "standard" T&Cs include an insurance provision? Why or why not? (Discuss)

8.134.5 Certificate

FACTS:

  • The contract draft requires Provider to maintain certain levels of insurance.
  • Before signing the contract, ChemCo asks Provider for a copy of its insurance certificate.
  • Provider's sales manager, Sam, notices that Provider's CGL and E&O insurance have expired. Sam is fairly sure that the Provider finance people are in the process of negotiating new policies with a new carrier. So Sam electronically changes the expiration date on the old certificate of insurance and emails it to his contact at ChemCo.
  • After the contract is signed, Provider's finance people put in place new CGL and E&O coverage with a new carrier.
  • Subsequently, Provider's workers accidentally injure a visitor to the ChemCo premises.

QUESTION: What are the parties' legal and practical positions?

8.135 (L) Internal clause numbering can be a good thing (substantive issue:  implied covenant of good faith)

8.135.2 Facts (based on an actual case)

  • A hospital and a catering company enter a contract for the catering company to provide various food services, including stocking selected hospital refrigerators with specific food items.
  • As a performance incentive, the contract sets up what amounts to a system of fines, under which the company's payment can be reduced for mistakes.
  • The hospital reduces the catering company's payment by more than $128,000 when the hospital finds, in one of its refrigerators, a chocolate mousse whose expiration date was the previous day.
  • The catering company claims that the hospital has violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing in imposing the payment reduction.

The specific contract language concerning "good faith" is as follows:

3.5 The Hospital and the Contractor will co-operate with each other in good faith and will take all reasonable action as is necessary for the efficient transmission of information and instructions and to enable the Hospital to derive the full benefit of the Contract.

8.135.3 Questions

  1. Under this contract language (and without regard to what the law might say), does the Hospital have: (A) a general duty to cooperate in good faith with the Contractor, or (B) only a limited, specific duty to cooperate in good faith with the Contractor "as is necessary for the efficient transmission of information and instructions and to enable the Hospital to derive the full benefit of the Contract" ?
  2. What would the answer be if Texas law applied?
  3. What would the answer be if the UCC applied?
  4. What would the answer be if the Restatement (Second) applied?
  5. What would the answer be if English law applied?
  6. How might you add internal clause numbering, e.g., (a), (1), (i), etc., to the contract language (but make no other significant changes) to make it clear that the Hospital did have a duty of good faith and fair dealing?
  7. How might you add such internal clause numbering to the contract language (but make no other significant changes) to make it clear that the Hospital did not have a duty of good faith and fair dealing?

8.136 (L) Preamble

[IN PROGRESS]

8.136.1 Question: Minimum information needed?

What do you think is the minimum information needed for the introductory paragraph of a contract? Compare, for example:

8.136.2 Question: Benefit to including information?

Is there any actual benefit to including the information you typically see in the introductory paragraph of a contract? Consider, for example, the usual recitations of:

  • the state(s) in which the parties are incorporated
  • the parties' principal places of business

8.137 (L) Jury trial waiver

8.137.1 Facts

  • You are a lawyer at a law firm in Houston.
  • A law school classmate, who moved to Atlanta after graduation, has referred one of her Atlanta corporate clients to you. (That's a good reason to get to know, and be on good terms with, the people you meet in school ….)
  • Your classmate's Atlanta client is hiring a Houston company to perform certain services. The client has agreed to your classmate's advice that a Texas lawyer should be involved in the negotiation.
  • The Houston service provider's contract form says that:
    • both sides waive the right to a jury trial
    • Texas law applies
    • litigation will be Houston
    • any action to enforce the contract must be brought within one year after the cause of action accrues.
  • Your classmate says that your mutual client would like to preserve its right to a jury trial and to get a longer limitation period.

8.137.2 Questions

  1. Your classmate asks if the jury-trial waiver would be enforceable in a Texas court. What do you tell her?
  2. You ask your classmate whether the jury-trial waiver would be enforceable in a Georgia court. What will her answer be?
  3. Your classmate asks whether the one-year limitation period is enforceable in Texas. What do you tell her?
  4. Would your answer on the limitation period be any different if the contract were for the sale of goods?
  5. You ask your classmate whether the one-year limitation period is enforceable in Georgia. What will her answer be?
  6. As a practical matter, who is more likely to file a breach-of-contract suit in the future — the Houston services company, or the Atlanta customer? What does that suggest about which of the contract provisions in question is, or are, likely to be most important to the Atlanta customer?
  7. Name up to three changes that you could ask for in the contract to preserve the Atlanta company's right to a jury trial. (Hint: See the suggested reading — and consider what trade-offs you might be making. Also, one possible change could be to delete existing language.)
  8. If any new language is necessary to implement your proposed changes, draft it.
  9. Could you use a two-step strategy to try to get at least some of what your client wants? That is, propose Change A, and if you can't get the Houston services company to agree, then propose Change B as a fallback position? What might those two changes be?

8.137.3 Suggested reading

8.138 (L) Limitations of liability

SUGGESTED READING:

FACTS:

  • Your client, Buyer, ordered a large quantity of widgets from Seller, which uses a standard terms-of-sale form copied essentially verbatim from the [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellTOS].
  • Seller, however, was unable to deliver the widgets on time. Your client, Buyer, had to "cover" the purchase by ordering rush delivery from another manufacturer.
  • To find the substitute widgets, Buyer had to spend a fair amount of time and money on, for example:
    • travel expenses to visit the other manufacturer's factory, and
    • testing of the other manufacturer's widgets to make sure they would meet Buyer's requirements.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Under § 13 of the [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellTOS] and UCC 2-715(1), can Buyer recover the expenses mentioned in the Facts from Seller as part of its "cover" damages?
  2. In § 13 of the [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellTOS], why does the last sentence carve out personal injury or death?

8.139 (L) Most-favored-customer pricing

8.139.1 Takeaways

Most-favored-customer clauses (and other "most-favored" provisions) can:

  • be a bear to manage;
  • lead to (very) unpleasant surprises.

8.139.2 Facts

Your client, Seller, has asked you to review a purchase order from Buyer. The PO includes two pricing clauses that appear to have been copied essentially verbatim from sections 12 and 13 of the [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellPO].

8.139.3 Questions

  1. How might Seller respond to Buyer about the most-favored-customer clause?
  2. What happened to Oracle when it breached its most-favored-customer clause with the U.S. Government (in its GSA contract)?
  3. What specifically did Oracle do that brought down the government's wrath on it?
  4. How much money did the whistleblower get for his trouble?

8.139.4 Resources

8.139.5 Other resources (read later)

8.140 (L) Payment Terms Worksheet 1

INSTRUCTIONS: Mentally try to answer each of the following questions, then hold your mouse cursor over the grayed-out area below the question.

1. PROVISION: "Alice represents that she will pay Bob net 30 days."

QUESTION: What does "net 30 days" mean? [80]

QUESTION: Is anything wrong with the "net 30 days" part? [81]

QUESTION: Is anything else wrong with this provision? [82]

2. FACTS: (A) Bob wants Alice to agree to the following provision: Alice will notify Bob of any dispute about a payment obligation no later than the due date of the payment. (B) Alice's lawyer objects to this provision.

QUESTION: Should Bob push hard for this provision? [83]

QUESTION: Should Bob read anything into the fact that Alice's lawyer objected to this provision? [84]

3. FACTS: A contract payment provision states that past-due payments will bear interest at 8% per month beginning on the due date. Texas law applies.

QUESTION: Any problem with this provision? [85]

QUESTION: How should you respond if you see this while reviewing a contract drafted by another party — that is, if it were your client that putatively would have to pay interest on past-due amounts? [86]

8.141 (L) PayPal contract change

From a recently-announced amendment to PayPal's user agreement:

In representations to your customers or in public communications, you agree not to mischaracterize PayPal as a payment method.

At all of your points of sale (in whatever form), you agree not to try to dissuade or inhibit your customers from using PayPal;

and, if you enable your customers to pay you with PayPal, you agree to treat PayPal’s payment mark at least at par with other payment methods offered.

[Extra paragraphing added.]

QUESTION: What if a PayPal user doesn't want to agree to these changes — does the user have any recourse? [87]

8.142 (L) Preamble (Billy Buyer computer sale)

1. FACTS: Billy Buyer wants the computer-sale contract to recite, not his name, but his business name, "Bravo Builders" (just that – no Inc. or LLC or anything like that).

QUESTION: Any problem with that?

2. FACTS: It turns out that Billy Buyer is 15 years old.

QUESTION: Any issues there? [88]

3. ALTERNATE FACTS: Billy is 28 years old, a successful Internet entrepreneur who is worth $300 million. Billy wants the contract with Sarah Seller to be in the name of his new business venture, Beta-Beta Research LLC. BBR will be renting from Sarah (not buying) a custom-built supercomputer for one year, for an annual rent of $1 million.

QUESTION: Any financial issues here? How might those issues be addressed? [89]

8.143 (L) Release (in development)

8.144 (L) Representations and warranties

QUESTION 1: Does a representation normally relate to:
(A) a past fact?
(B) a present fact?
(C) a future fact?
(D) all of the above?
(E) none of the above? [90]

QUESTION 2: What are the basic elements that a plaintiff generally must establish to succeed in a claim for misrepresentation?

(Each small group should collaborate to answer this question in writing in its Google Doc.) [91]

QUESTION 3: Should factual representations normally be included in an agreement's recitals? Why or why not? [92]

8.145 (L) Reps and warranties strategy

FACTS: You are selling a car to a stranger. You don't know of any mechanical problems.

QUESTION: If the stranger asks you to represent and warrant that the car has no problems, how might you respond?

8.146 (L) Reps and warranties strategy

FACTS: You've passed a bar (exam) and are a licensed attorney. As a favor to a friend, you're helping the friend sell a car to a stranger. The friend says that s/he doesn't know of any mechanical problems with the car.

MORE FACTS: The buyer asks the seller to represent and warrant that the car has no problems.

QUESTION: how might you respond? [93]

QUESTION: T/F: It's acceptable for the seller to phrase the statement as, "to my personal knowledge the vehicle has no problems"? [Note where the question mark is, i.e., outside the quotation mark.] [94]

8.147 (L) Right of First Refusal = Option to Purchase?

FACTS: From Edgar v. Mills, 2017 S.D. 7:

[¶1.] In this breach of contract action, the circuit court found a lease agreement ambiguous and considered parol evidence.  * * *

[¶3.] The lease agreement contained a provision titled, “Right of First Refusal.” That provision provided:

It is hereby agreed that should said land become subject to sale after completion of the crop season in the final year of this lease, that in such an event, the Lessee shall have the right of first refusal to buy said property at a price set by making the final lease payment as described above plus the additional sum of Seven Thousand Two Hundred One and no/100 Dollars ($7,201.00). This first right of refusal shall be only during the term of this lease.

[1.] … The court concluded that the parties intended the lease agreement to be a lease with an option to purchase.

The court ordered specific performance, compelling the owners of the real estate to execute a warranty deed in favor of the lessees.

The owners appeal.

[Extra paragraphing added.]

QUESTION: How do you think the state supreme court responded to the landowners' appeal? [fn::The court reversed the order compelling specific performance:

[¶28.] From our review of the lease, the parties did not create a traditional right of first refusal. That, however, does not mean that an ambiguity exists or that the parties intended to create an option to purchase. When the language of a contract is plain and unambiguous, it is our duty to interpret it and enforce it as written.

(Citation omitted.)]

8.148 (L) Sales quotation for keychain split rings

8.148.1 Facts

Your client is Seller L.P., a Houston-based Texas limited partnership that manufactures novelty items. You're on the phone with one of Buyer's managers, Betty Boop, with whom you've dealt before. Betty says:

  • Buyer has a short-notice opportunity to make 10,000 custom-branded novelty keychains for a buyer that wants to use them as giveaways at a Hong Kong trade show.
  • This wouldn't be a new product line for Buyer, which often manufactures customized keychains.
  • Buyer's keychains typically include the usual metal split rings that can tear your fingernail when you try to add or remove a key.
  • Buyer recently used up all of its inventory of split rings; Betty has been tasked with procuring 10,000 of them as soon as possible.
  • Betty has found a supplier, Seller Corporation of Galveston, that has enough of the split rings in stock.
  • Sam Seaborn, one of Seller's sales representatives, has sent Betty an email that includes a Word document as an attachment. He wants Betty to print, sign, and date the attachment and FAX it back to him.
  • Betty has forwarded Sam's email and its attachment to you.
  • The text of the Word document attached to Sam's email, in its entirety, is the following:

SALES QUOTATION – SELLER CORPORATION

Buyer: Betty Boop

Product: One-inch metal split rings

Quantity: 10,000.

Price: $1.00 each plus shipping.

Terms: Half up front, balance net 30 days after delivery.

ACCEPTED:

___________
Betty Boop

____________
Date


8.148.2 Question 1: "Merchant"?

For purposes of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), would a court likely hold that Buyer L.P. is a "merchant" with respect to metal split rings? Explain briefly.

SUGGESTED READING:

8.148.3 Question 2: Sufficient detail?

ASSUME ARGUENDO:

  • One of the parties later wants to challenge the enforceability of the sales quotation as a contract on grounds of "indefiniteness," because the sales quotation supposedly didn't contain enough detail.
  • The sales quotation is otherwise enforceable as a contract.

Would such a challenge be likely to succeed? Explain briefly.

SUGGESTED READING:

8.148.4 Question 3: Formation of a contract?

ASSUME ARGUENDO:

  • The sales quotation contains enough detail to be enforceable as a contract if duly signed and delivered.
  • Betty prints out the sales quotation; manually signs it with pen and ink; FAXes the signed document back to Sam Seaborn as he requested; and shreds the signed original.

On these assumed facts, would a court likely hold that a contract was thereby formed? Explain briefly.

SUGGESTED READING:

8.148.5 Question 4: Federal E-SIGN Act applicability?

8.148.6 Question 5: Delivery location

ADDITIONAL FACTS: Sam Seaborn, having received Buyer's 50% down payment, sends Betty Boop an email saying that the split rings are ready to be picked up at Seller's warehouse in Galveston.

Would Seller likely be found in breach of contract if it did not deliver the split rings to Buyer's Houston offices? Explain briefly.

RESOURCES:

8.148.7 Question 6: Payment terms

(a) In the "Terms" line, what does "net 30 days" mean?

(b) If the sales quotation hadn't specified payment terms, when would have payment have been due?

RESOURCES:

8.148.8 Question 7: Form of signature

Given that your client is Buyer L.P. and not Betty Boop personally, would you advise Betty to sign the sales quotation in its present form? Explain briefly.

8.148.9 Question 8: Liability for payment

SUPPOSE: Betty sends Sam a check, drawn on a Buyer L.P. account, for the 50% deposit, and takes delivery of the metal split rings. But then Buyer L.P. goes out of business before paying Seller's invoice for the remaining balance. Seller then sues Betty, personally, for the balance.

Betty moves for summary judgment that she is not personally liable because (she says) the contract was with Buyer L.P. Seller cross-moves for summary judgment that Betty is indeed personally liable.

(a) If you were the trial judge, how would you rule? Explain briefly.

(b) What advice would you have given Betty if she had consulted you before signing and

RESOURCES:

8.148.10 Question 9: Enforcement

ASSUME ARGUENDO: Sam Seaborn tells Betty that Seller Corporation is going to file suit for the 50% balance due.

Will Seller Corp. necessarily have to hire an attorney? Explain briefly.

RESOURCES:

8.148.11 Question 10: Merchandise quality

SUPPOSE:

  • When Buyer L.P.'s people unpack the 10,000 metal split rings, they find that one of them is so defective as to be unusable. The other 9,999 of them are fine.
  • Betty Boop contacts Sam Seaborn and asks for the defective split ring to be replaced; Sam refuses, saying that Buyer L.P.'s workers must have broken the defective ring.
  • Enraged by Sam's obstreperousness, the CEO of Buyer L.P. decides to sue Seller Corp. for breach of warranty because of the defective split ring.

Given the absence of any warranty language in the sales quotation, is Buyer L.P. likely to recover damages for breach of warranty? Explain briefly.

RESOURCES:

8.148.12 Question 11: Stolen property

SUPPOSE:

  • Split Rings, Inc., one of Seller Corp.'s competitors, successfully sues Buyer L.P. for recovery of the 10,000 split rings, on grounds that Seller Corp. stole the rings from Split Rings, Inc.
  • The sales quotation also contains the following language: All goods are provided "as is, with all faults."

Does Buyer L.P. have any recourse against Seller Corp.?

RESOURCES:

8.149 (L) Sandberg employment agreement (continued)

These questions relate to the Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement in the Supplement, which starts at page 101.

For purposes of the following questions, assume that you represent Facebook in negotiating this agreement (unless stated otherwise below).

  1. Lines 130-35 (no other rights upon termination): Sandberg's lawyer would like to delete this provision. What is your recommendation, and why?
  2. Lines 141-43 (general release): Facebook's HR VP wonders why you're drafting a form of general release to include as an exhibit — it seems like an unnecessary expenditure of legal fees when a release might never be necessary. How do you advise the HR VP?
  3. Lines 141-43 (general release): Is there any way you could recommend to the HR VP to defer having to draft a general release at this juncture?
  4. The FB HR VP wants to know why Sandberg's employment agreement specifies that she'll work out of Facebook's Menlo Park office. What do you tell her? (Hint: See lines 174-80 (vesting acceleration) and 261-62 (definition of Involuntary Termination) of the agreement.)
  5. Lines 294-98 (confidentiality agreement): The FB HR VP wonders why this provision doesn't incorporate the confidentiality agreement of Exhibit B by reference. How do you respond? (Hint: See lines 494-95.)
  6. Lines 100-01 (vacation time, etc.): This provision states that Sandberg will get vacation time and PTO "at the rate equal to other similarly situated executives." Sandberg's lawyer would like to lock in that she will get at least 20 business days per year. How do you advise the HR VP?
  7. Lines 110-16 (expense reimbursement): This provision requires Sandberg to provide supporting documentation for any requested expense reimbursements. Her lawyer says this would be too burdensome. How do you advise the HR VP?

8.150 (L) Selling a used computer (part 1)

SETTING UP: Groups 1 and 2 will represent Sarah Seller; Groups 3 and 4 will represent Billy Buyer.

FACTS:

  • Sarah Seller owns a three-year-old laptop computer. She wants to sell it so that she can buy the latest and greatest model.
  • Billy Buyer is interested in buying Sarah's computer. Billy is wealthy, so he wants the actual purchase to be made by his family office, Buyer Investments L.P.

ASSIGNMENT: In your three-person groups, and using your group's Google Doc whiteboard, each group is to think of a list of provisions that you would want to see in a "minimum viable contract."

8.151 (L) Services Q&A

  1. What kind of review — if any — should an attorney do of a Statement of Work? Explain.
  2. What are some pros and cons of having each Statement of Work be a separate agreement?
  3. Which should take precedence: A master agreement, or a Statement of Work entered into under the master agreement?
  4. From a "what makes good business sense" perspective: Who should own any new intellectual property developed by a service provider pursuant to a Statement of Work? Explain.

8.152 (L) Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement

Reference: Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement

For purposes of the following questions, assume that you represent Facebook in negotiating this agreement (unless stated otherwise below).

  1. When might a drafter want to do an amended and restated agreement instead of just amending the agreement?
  2. What are some other ways of amending an agreement?
  3. Sandberg's lawyer asks that you change all the instances of the second person ("you") to third person ("the Executive"). How do you advise Facebook about the pros and cons of her request?
  4. Lines 30-40: The letter goes into great detail about Sandberg's duties. Facebook's HR vice president wants to know if you can eliminate all that, because from the title "Chief Operating Officer" it should be obvious what Sandberg's duties will be. QUESTION: What do you advise the HR VP about the possible concerns here — for Sandberg and FB? (Hint: See lines 174-80 (vesting acceleration) and lines 273-75 (definition of Involuntary Termination — material adverse change in responsibilities).)
  5. Lines 72-73 ("your Employment will not infringe the rights of any other person"): From a drafting-technique perspective, what's wrong with this provision?
  6. Lines 74-78 (return of prior employers' confidential information): Facebooks' HR VP wants to know why this provision has Sandberg both representing and warranting these things. What do you say?
  7. Lines 81-82 (salary): The provision refers to Sandberg's salary as the "gross annual rate" of $300K per year (emphasis added). Sandberg's lawyer wants Facebook to change the provision to "an annual salary of $300,000 per year." What do advise Facebook, and why?
  8. Lines 83-84 (salary per company's standard payroll procedures): If Sandberg wanted to lock in her pay periods at, say, weekly, how would you advise Facebook to respond? [MW1600 stopped here]
  9. Lines 130-35 (no other rights upon termination): Sandberg's lawyer would like to delete this provision. What is your recommendation, and why?
  10. Lines 141-43 (general release): Facebook's HR VP wonders why you're drafting a form of general release to include as an exhibit — it seems like an unnecessary expenditure of legal fees when a release might never be necessary. How do you advise the HR VP?
  11. Lines 141-43 (general release): Is there any way you could recommend to the HR VP to defer having to draft a general release at this juncture?
  12. The FB HR VP wants to know why Sandberg's employment agreement specifies that she'll work out of Facebook's Menlo Park office. What do you tell her? (Hint: See lines 174-80 (vesting acceleration) and 261-62 (definition of Involuntary Termination) of the agreement.)
  13. Lines 294-98 (confidentiality agreement): The FB HR VP wonders why this provision doesn't incorporate the confidentiality agreement of Exhibit B by reference. How do you respond? (Hint: See lines 494-95.)
  14. Lines 100-01 (vacation time, etc.): This provision states that Sandberg will get vacation time and PTO "at the rate equal to other similarly situated executives." Sandberg's lawyer would like to lock in that she will get at least 20 business days per year. How do you advise the HR VP?
  15. Lines 110-16 (expense reimbursement): This provision requires Sandberg to provide supporting documentation for any requested expense reimbursements. Her lawyer says this would be too burdensome. How do you advise the HR VP?

8.153 (L) Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement (1)

These questions relate to the Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement in the Supplement, starting at page 101.

For purposes of the following questions, assume that you represent Facebook in negotiating this agreement (unless stated otherwise below).

1. When might a drafter want to do an amended and restated agreement instead of just amending the agreement? [95]

2. What are some other ways of amending an agreement?

3. Sandberg's lawyer asks that you change all the instances of the second person ("you") to third person ("the Executive"). How do you advise Facebook about the pros and cons of her request? [96]

4. Lines 30-40: The letter goes into great detail about Sandberg's duties. Facebook's HR vice president wants to know if you can eliminate all that, because from the title "Chief Operating Officer" it should be obvious what Sandberg's duties will be. QUESTION: What do you advise the HR VP about the possible concerns here — for Sandberg and FB? (Hint: See lines 174-80 (vesting acceleration) and lines 273-75 (definition of Involuntary Termination — material adverse change in responsibilities).)

5. Lines 72-73 ("your Employment will not infringe the rights of any other person"): From a drafting-technique perspective, what's wrong with this provision? [97]

6. Lines 74-78 (return of prior employers' confidential information): Facebooks' HR VP wants to know why this provision has Sandberg both representing and warranting these things. What do you say? [98]

7. Lines 81-82 (salary): The provision refers to Sandberg's salary as the "gross annual rate" of $300K per year (emphasis added). Sandberg's lawyer wants Facebook to change the provision to "an annual salary of $300,000 per year." What do you advise Facebook, and why? [99]

8. Lines 83-84 (salary per company's standard payroll procedures): If Sandberg wanted to lock in her pay periods at, say, weekly, how would you advise Facebook to respond? [100]

8.154 (L) Signatures: The Addams family in Hawai'i

FACTS:

  • Your client is Addams Investments, L.P., a "family" limited partnership of the very-wealthy Addams clan in Galveston. The sole general partner of the limited partnership is Addams Operations, Inc.
  • It's 12:00 noon Houston time on March 31. The president of Addams Operations, Ms. Wednesday Addams, is on the phone. It's a bad connection, but she wants to talk about a contract that you and she have been negotiating for Addams Investments, L.P.
  • Under the contract, will buy a large quantity of widgets from Widgets, Inc., a Houston company that recently went public. (Family patriarch Gomez Addams is convinced the family will make a killing in the widget market.)
  • Wednesday Addams says that she has talked by phone with her opposite number at Widgets, Inc.; she reports that Widgets, Inc., has agreed to the last contract draft that you sent over, and that everyone is ready to sign.
  • The Widgets, Inc. people really, really want to get the contract signed and delivered today, March 31. They've told Wednesday Addams that they're willing to make significant pricing concessions to make that happen.
  • There's a problem, though: As you learn from Wednesday Addams over the bad phone connection, she and the rest of the Addams family are at the end of a rugged backpacking vacation on a small, primitive island in Hawai'i. The island has no Internet service and barely has cell phone service.
  • The family has just emerged from the back country. The plan is for everyone, smelly as they are, to take a private plane from a dirt landing strip on the island to the Honolulu airport. A shuttle bus will take them to a nearby hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes. The family will then board a United Airlines "redeye" overnight flight that will land in Houston on the morning of April 1.
  • One more thing, she says: In the interest of traveling as light as possible, no one in the group brought a laptop.

QUESTION: How should the contract signature block for Adams Investments, L.P., be written? INSTRUCTIONS: Develop a consensus, then send a representative to write your sig block on the whiteboard.

QUESTION: Why might the Widgets sales rep be so eager to get the contract signed on March 31? (Hint: It has to do with the fact that Widgets, Inc. is a newly-public company.)

QUESTION: What about just signing it on April 1 when the family gets back to Houston?

QUESTION: Is it physically possible for you to "make it happen" for the contract to be signed and delivered to Widgets, Inc. today, March 31? If so, how might you go about it?

QUESTION: If Wednesday Addams asks you to sign it as the company's lawyer, how should you respond?

8.155 (L) Signed originals of Agreement

8.155.1 Facts

  • You represent Seller, a software licensor.
  • Seller wants your help in suing a renegade customer that is using the software far beyond the scope of its paid-for license.
  • The license agreement was signed five years ago, when Seller's administrative systems weren't as good as they are now.
  • Seller can't find the signed original of the license agreement.

8.155.2 Questions

  • In a U.S. federal court, would the absence of the signed original license agreement be a problem?
  • What might the license-agreement drafter have done to (maybe) avert this problem?

8.155.3 Suggested reading

8.156 (L) Spontaneously-combusting widgets

FACTS:

  1. Alice manufactures electronic widgets. Each widget has a battery that is sealed into the widget and not replaceable.
  2. Bob manufactures electronic gadgets that include electronic widgets.
  3. Bob enters into a contract with Alice to buy electronic widgets from her.
  4. The contract includes, among other provisions:
    • a warranty that the widgets do not contain any defects in design or manufacture;
    • a provision requiring Alice to indemnify Bob against any harm Bob suffers from defects in the widgets; and
    • an exclusion of incidental- and consequential damages.
  5. Bob takes delivery of a large quantity of Alice's widgets and stores them in an appropriate storage room.
  6. In the storage room, the batteries in several of Alice's widgets spontaneously catch fire, resulting in major damage and causing significant "down time" for Bob's gadget-manufacturing operations. (Think: Hoverboards.)
  7. Citing the indemnity provision, Bob demands that Alice reimburse him for the cost of:
    • repairs;
    • replacement of the damaged contents of the storage room;
    • the travel expenses that Bob incurred in going to China and India to check out alternative sources of widgets;
    • the profits that Bob lost from the manufacturing down time.

QUESTIONS:

  1. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: Alice need not reimburse Bob because an indemnity provision covers claims by third parties against the protected party, not direct claims by the protected party against the indemnifying party.
  2. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: If Bob sues Alice for breach of her indemnity obligation, Alice can probably get Bob's claim for lost profits thrown out early (by moving for partial summary judgment) as barred by the contract's exclusion of consequential damages.
  3. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: If Alice had negotiated the indemnity provision to cover only third-party claims, the provision likely would be enforceable.
  4. EXPLAIN IF FALSE: Alice can probably get Bob's claim for travel expenses dismissed on partial summary judgment as barred by the contract's exclusion of incidental damages.

8.157 (L) Stanford-Tesla lease agreement worksheet 1

Reference: Stanford-Tesla real-estate lease agreement

  1. Lines 16-18 (Basic Lease Terms in Article I are subordinate to other provisions): What could go wrong? How could this be fixed?
  2. Lines 19-21 (Glossary) – DCT comments
  3. Line 26 (addresses for notice): What could go wrong? How could this be fixed?
  4. Lines 30-40 (premises): Is there any ambiguity in line 38? Is the ambiguity worth taking time to fix?
  5. Lines 47-49 (Tenant inspection): Does it matter that this doesn't say "Tenant represents [or /represents and warrants/] that it has made a thorough inspection …."? Why might a drafter choose to leave out those particular terms?
  6. Line 57 (disclaimer of Landlord warranties about structural components): Given the Premises' location (very near the San Andreas Fault), might the Landlord's drafter want to say any more as "cheap insurance"? Why or why not?
  7. Lines 83-85: Why attach a specific Acceptance Form? Could anything go wrong here? How else could this be approached?
  8. Line 89 (Term): Note what this is the "term" of.
  9. Lines 103-11 (Landlord can't deliver premises): Does this clause cause any problems for enforceability of the lease agreement? Would you recommend any changes?
  10. Lines 116-17 (no further rights): Would you advise either side to sign this? Would you recommend any changes?
  11. Line 119: Why is this called an "extension" option and not a "renewal" option?
  12. Lines 164-77 (relating to early termination): Can you think of a better way to present the information? Why might that be useful someday? (Hint: Consider who the future readers might be.)

8.158 (L) Stanford-Tesla lease agreement worksheet 2

Reference: Stanford-Tesla real-estate lease agreement

  1. Lines 183-85 (alteration requirements): Any thoughts about the drafting "style" of this provision?
  2. [WE'RE GOING TO SKIP THIS – NO NEED TO EMAIL TO ME] Lines 186-92 (conditions): Redraft this in plain(er) English.
  3. Lines 204 et seq. (right of first offer):

    • If you were representing Stanford, would you rather give Tesla a right of first offer, or a right of first refusal (sometimes called "last look")?
    • What if you were representing Tesla?

    Hint: See this article (the link in the contract PDF is munged).

  4. Lines 263-81 (interest; administrative late fee): What if any differences are there in the legal implications of charging interest versus an administrative late fee?
  5. Lines 274-77 (reasonable estimate): What does this language sound like?
  6. Lines 294-96 (prohibited uses): Any issue with prohibiting use of the Premises for immoral purposes?
  7. Lines 311-13 (no loudspeakers, etc.): Redraft this using the virtual whiteboard. (Hint: Might passive voice actually be better in this context?)
  8. Percentage rent: List the pros and cons and how the "cons" could be addressed. Hint: Consider how relevant facts are to be determined.
  9. Section 7 (net lease): Would this provision in the agreement be characterized as single net, double net, or triple net? (Hint: Read section 7.3 carefully; check Wikipedia for definitions.)
  10. Lines 429-30 (tax increases as determined by Landlord): Would you agree to this if you were representing Tesla? What alternative(s) might you propose?
  11. T/F: The reasonableness of a contractually-stipulated liquidated-damages amount is to be determined from the perspective of the parties as of the time they sign the contract, not with 20-20 hindsight in an actual case. (Hint: Check the Common Draft annotation on liquidated damages, and also this post.)

8.159 (L) Stanford-Tesla lease agreement worksheet 3

Reference: Stanford-Tesla real-estate lease agreement

  1. Lines 450-60 (disclaimer of landlord obligation to repair): DCT comment re statutory provisions
  2. Section 8.4 (Tenant's failure to repair): Discuss how Tesla's attorneys might try to negotiate this clause. (Would they try to negotiate it?)
  3. Section 9.1 (Landlord unreasonable withholding of consent to alterations):
    • Does the ten-day response requirement actually do Tesla any good? What if Stanford doesn't respond?
    • How might the parties plan to resolve a dispute on this point quickly and efficiently?
    • Given lines 505-13, should the possibility of a dispute be a genuine business concern for Tesla?
  4. Line 520 (additional Rent): DCT comment re inconsistent capitalization
  5. Lines 530-37 (Landlord approval not to be unreasonably withheld): Could timing be a problem with this clause?
  6. Lines 613-20 (Tenant covenants and agrees to do X):
    • Do the obligations imposed on Tesla actually "work" for Stanford? What might work better?
    • HOMEWORK: Draft a revision.
  7. Lines 621-22 (Tenant shall take all necessary safety precautions):
    • Any danger of 20-20 hindsight here?
    • How could this be reworded to protect both parties?
  8. Lines 892-93 (Tenant to continue to keep list of Hazardous Materials current):
    • What might be some of the practical reasons for Stanford to want such a list?
    • Is it realistic to impose this requirement with this wording? What might work better?
  9. Lines 902-05 ("total conformity" to environmental laws): Is this realistic? What might work better?
  10. Lines 920-22 (Landlord has right to "reasonably approve" haz-mat remediation contractors selected by Tenant): What does "reasonably approve" mean? REWRITE.
  11. Lines 920-22 (Landlord has right to "reasonably approve" haz-mat remediation contractors selected by Tenant): How could Tenant practically manage the risk that Landlord might dawdle with the approval? REWRITE. Hint: Lines 970-72 offer one possibility, but there's a still-better way.
  12. Lines 923-25 (Tenant to proceed "continuously and diligently" with haz-mat remediation work): What does "continuously" mean? REWRITE.
  13. Lines 927-28 (Haz-mat remediation "shall be performed in a good, safe and workmanlike manner"): This is a false imperative — REWRITE.
  14. Lines 927-28 (Haz-mat remediation "shall be performed in a good, safe and workmanlike manner"): What does workmanlike mean? Hint: See the Common Draft definition and its commentary.
  15. Line 1013 et seq. (Landlord's right to remediate haz-mat conditions): Note how this is a simple, two-part, expressly-authorized self-help remedy. QUESTION: What are the two parts of the remedy? Hint: "When in doubt, make it about money."
  16. Line 1013 et seq. (Landlord's right to remediate haz-mat conditions): Why does this say that Landlord has the right, but not the obligation, to remediate haz-mat conditions?
  17. Line 1022 et seq.: Note how Tenant must immediately notify Landlord of certain events.
  18. Line 1027 et seq.: Note how Landlord has complete control over actions taken to appeal certain governmental actions concerning haz-mat.
  19. Lines 1043-45 What if any difference is there between indemnify and hold harmless? Hint: See the Common Draft definition and its commentary.
  20. Lines 1043 et seq.: Is Tenant's indemnity obligation limited to third-party claims?
  21. Lines 1043 et seq.: What if any practical difference exists between (i) Tenant's liability to indemnify Landlord against the consequences of Tenant's breach of the lease agreement, versus (ii) straight-up breach-of-contract liability?
  22. Lines 1064-72 (Landlord is entitled to hire its own counsel to defend against indemnified claims, at Tenant's expense): What are the economic incentives for counsel that Landlord hires?
  23. Lines 1075-80 (Landlord is not entitled to indemnity for its gross negligence or willful misconduct): If this agreement were governed by Texas law, would Landlord be entitled to indemnity for its own simple negligence? Hint: Look up the express-negligence doctrine.
  24. Lines 1081-82: "Tenant shall procure at its sole cost and expense and keep in effect during the Term [certain insurance coverage]." (Emphasis added.) QUESTION: Stylistically, what's wrong with the "cost and expense" term? Hint: In the accounting world there's a difference between cost and expense — but is that difference relevant in this context?
  25. Lines 1107-08: "The Full Insurable Replacement Value [for which Tenant must maintain insurance] shall be determined by Landlord." QUESTION: Any process-type red flags here for Tenant? How could they be addressed?
  26. Lines 1109-10: "Tenant shall maintain coverage at the current Full Insurable Replacement Value throughout the Term …." QUESTION: Any ambiguity here? REWRITE.
  27. Lines 1119-20: What is the difference between "occurrence" insurance and "claims made" insurance? Hint: See this IRMI glossary entry.
  28. Lines 1139-41: Tenant must add, as additional insureds, "Landlord and any other party designated by Landlord …." QUESTION: Any red flags here for Tenant?
  29. Lines 1154-56: Tenant's insurance policies must "provide that Landlord will receive thirty (30) days' written notice from the insurer prior to any cancellation or material change in coverage[.]" QUESTION: What's the one stylistic error here? (I'll be greatly disappointed if anyone gets that part wrong. Hint: it's not that the "will receive" is passive voice.) QUESTION: Any substantive red flags for Tenant?
  30. Lines 1193-94: Policies must "include as additional insureds Landlord, and such other persons or entities as Landlord specifies from time to time." QUESTION: Any red flags here for Tenant?
  31. Lines 1233 et seq.: What is a waiver of subrogation? EXPLAIN in the virtual whiteboard.
  32. Lines 1247-49: "Either party shall notify the other party if the policy of insurance carried by it does not permit the foregoing waiver [of subrogation]."
    • STYLE QUESTION: Is there a better way of phrasing the "Either party shall notify the other party" term?
    • STYLE QUESTION: Is there a better way of phrasing the "policy of insurance carried by it" term?
    • PROCESS QUESTION: How likely is it that either party actually checked its insurance? If Tenant's insurance didn't include such a waiver, what could (and likely would) be the legal consequence if Landlord tried but failed to make a claim against Tenant's insurance?
  33. Lines 1307 et seq.: Note how the right of first refusal is drafted.
  34. Lines 1347 et seq.: How (if at all) can the lease agreement bind a Transferee that isn't a party to the lease agreement?
  35. Lines 1394-97 and 1411-16 (filing for bankruptcy protection, etc., is an Event of Default): Any red flags here for either party?
  36. Lines 1432 et seq.: Concerning Landlord's entitlement to a damages payment from Tenant in case of default, the "worth of …" language closely tracks the language of Cal. Civ. Code § 1951.2. QUESTION: Business people would probably use the term "net present value" (NPV) or "discounted cash flow" (DCF), so why didn't the drafter?
  37. Lines 1460 et seq.: Note how Landlord's drafter explicitly included a fairly-long list of monetary amounts to be factored into computing Landlord's
  38. Lines 1565 et seq.: Here's another example of what in the IP world might be called "march-in rights," expressly authorizing Landlord to take self-help action to cure Tenant's default and then bill Tenant for it.
  39. Lines 1628 et seq.: Still more Landlord self-help provisions, authorizing Landlord, e.g., to show the premises to a prospective purchaser or (during the last year of the lease) a prospective new tenant.
  40. Lines 1677 et seq. (Tenant's subordination obligation): Landlord's drafter was thinking ahead, requiring Tenant to subordinate Tenant's interests to that of a successor to Landlord. (This is pretty standard in a lease.)
  41. Lines 1709 et seq.: Tenant's drafter was likewise thinking ahead: Landlord is required to get certain potential successors to commit to allowing Tenant to stay in the place — but what if Landlord doesn't do so?
  42. Lines 1733 et seq. (rent must be paid no matter what): This is a form of hell-or-high-water clause. STYLE QUESTION: Would you expect to see "the rent must be paid no matter what" in a section entitled "17. Limitation of Landlord's Liability"?
  43. Lines 1738-39:
    • What exactly is "gross neglience"? (In the linked reading, be sure to read the annotations, especially concerning Texas and California law.)
    • How about "willful misconduct"?
    • How safe is it for a drafter to include such terms without defining them?
  44. Lines 1770-78 (no personal liability): Note how Landlord's drafter forecloses Tenant's right to sue anyone except Landlord; in maritime law this concept is sometimes referred to as a "Himalaya clause."
  45. Lines 1770-78 (limited recourse): If Tenant successfully sues Landlord for default, Tenant can't look to recover damages from Landlord's non-Premises assets. This is akin to a non-recourse loan.
  46. Lines 1779 et seq. (destruction of Premises): This is a standard issue to address in a lease agreement.
  47. Lines 1831 (arbitration): The subheading refers to arbitration, but the lease agreement doesn't include an arbitration provision.
  48. Lines 1879 et seq. (eminent domain): This is a standard issue to address in a lease agreement.
  49. Lines 2458-2462 (acceptance form – personal rep and warranty of due authorization): Would you sign a document with this language? Why or why not?

8.160 (L) Termination (Honeywell)

References (suggestion: open in separate tabs):

QUESTIONS:

  1. FACTS: Honeywell claims that its supplier has failed to cure a material breach of the P.O.'s terms by Supplier. But Supplier also claims that Honeywell is in material breach of the P.O. terms. QUESTION: What could happen if Honeywell were to give notice of termination of the P.O. on grounds of Supplier's alleged breach?
  2. FACTS: Section 20.1 specifies a single cure period of 10 calendar days in cases of material breach. (This is true.) QUESTION: What are the pros and cons of having just one cure period, as opposed to having separate cure periods for different types of breach?
  3. FACTS: Section 20.1 says in part that "A material breach includes, but is not limited to, late delivery or delivery of nonconforming Goods." QUESTION: What are some pros and cons of enumerating specific material breaches?
  4. QUESTION: Can Honeywell terminate a purchase order other than for breach by Supplier?
  5. FACTS: (A) Aardvark, Inc., issues a P.O. to your client, Supplier, for $10 million worth of goods, for delivery in four weeks. The P.O. contains the termination provisions of § 20 that we've just been looking at. (B) Supplier orders $4 million worth of the raw materials needed to make the goods and hires temporary help for a second shift. (C) Two weeks after Aardvark issues the P.O., Supplier hears that one of its competitors — whose sales manager is friends with an Aardvark executive — has approached Aardvark with a bid that's 2% lower than the price Supplier quoted. QUESTION: What are Supplier's options? What would you recommend?

8.161 (L) Termination vs. expiration

FACTS:

  • Devin Hamlen operated an auto body shop as a franchisee of Total Car Franchising ("TCF").
  • The franchise agreement, which was a standard form contract of TCF, had a 15-year term.
  • The franchise agreement incorporated by reference a "non-compete" provision stating that, for two years following termination of the franchise agreement [sic], Hamlen may not operate a body shop in a stated geographical area.
  • The franchise agreement eventually expired, but no one noticed right away.
  • Several months later, TCF, the franchisor, approached Hamlen about renewing the franchise agreement.
  • Hamlen decided not to renew, but to keep operating on his own.
  • TCF says Hamlen is in violation of the non-compete provision; Hamlen files a suit for declaratory judgment.
  • Hamlen says that the non-compete clause applies only upon termination of the franchise agreement, not upon expiration.

POSSIBLE READING: The Fourth Circuit's opinion

QUESTIONS:

  1. QUESTION: In the U.S. federal-court system (and most state-court systems), how much authority does an appellate court have to review a trial court's interpretation of an unambiguous contract provision?
    (A) None — the trial court's interpretation is binding;
    (B) Substantial-evidence review — the trial court's interpretation is binding if supported by substantial evidence;
    (C) De novo review — the appeals court has full power to substitute its own interpretation for that of the trial court.
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 6-7.
  2. TRUE | FALSE | MAYBE: If the parties to a contract disagree as to the proper interpretation of a particular contract provision, it follows that the provision is ambiguous.
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 6-7; id. at 9 n.5.
  3. TRUE | FALSE | MAYBE: In common parlance, the expiration of a time period is a type of termination, even though no one had to commit any affirmative act of termination.
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 9-10.
  4. TRUE | FALSE | MAYBE: Depending on the context, the expiration of a time period might not be a "termination" because no one had to commit any affirmative act of termination.
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 10-13.
  5. QUESTION: How does a nonsolicitation provision differ from a noncompetition provision?
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 4, 5.
  6. REVIEW: On the facts here, what effect would the principle of contra proferentem have?
    Suggested reading: Id., slip op. at 17 n.8.
  7. QUESTION: Under Texas law, what two basic requirements must a post-employment noncompetition provision meet?
    Suggested reading: This article.
  8. EXERCISE: As attorney for the franchisor TCF, describe two ways you could revise the franchise agreement to (try to) prevent this issue from arising again.
  9. QUESTION: Legally, what makes a contract a "franchise agreement"? [For in-class discussion only; no need to include in homework]

8.162 (L) Terms from an actual contract (1)

FACTS: You represent Seller. Discuss the following contract text.

1. CONTRACT TEXT: "Seller shall appoint an individual reasonably acceptable to Buyer whom shall be in charge of the performance of Seller’s obligations under this Agreement." DISCUSS. [101]

2. CONTRACT TEXT: "Buyer will have the right, at all times, to set off any amount due or payable to Seller hereunder against any claim or charge Buyer may have against Seller." DISCUSS. [102]

3. CONTRACT TEXT: "Buyer and Seller acknowledge and agree that Buyer’s damages for the failure to receive the Equipment on the dates set forth on the Schedule, the failure of the Equipment to achieve the Minimum Performance Criteria and meet the Reliability Test, and the failure to achieve the Scheduled Substantial Completion Date are difficult to predict with any certainty, that the Delivery Liquidated Damages and Performance Liquidated Damages (collectively, the 'Liquidated Damages') are a reasonable estimate of such damages, and that the Liquidated Damages are not a penalty. The parties further acknowledge and agree that the Liquidated Damages are not a sole or exclusive remedy of Buyer and that all of Buyer’s remedies hereunder are cumulative." DISCUSS. [103]

4. CONTRACT TEXT: "Seller warrants and represents to Buyer, Contractor (as defined in the Order Form) and the Lenders (as defined in Section 20.16) that the Equipment … shall be designed and fit for the specific purpose of Buyer when operated (i) in accordance with Seller’s specific operation instructions or, in the absence thereof, (ii) in accordance with generally accepted operation practices of the applicable industry; shall be of merchantable quality and free from defects in material and workmanship." DISCUSS. [104]

5. CONTRACT TEXT: "Seller warrants and represents to Buyer, Contractor (as defined in the Order Form) and the Lenders (as defined in Section 20.16) that the Equipment … can be operated in accordance with all applicable laws and permits in effect as of the date of this Agreement." DISCUSS. [105]

6. CONTRACT TEXT: "Seller warrants and represents to Buyer, Contractor (as defined in the Order Form) and the Lenders (as defined in Section 20.16) that the Equipment … is fit for its intended purpose." DISCUSS. [106]

8. CONTRACT TEXT: "ARTICLE 15. Except with regard to Liquidated Damages, either party’s breach of its representations and warranties to the other party, Buyer’s claims against Seller for indemnification and for Seller’s acts or omissions of willful misconduct or fraud, neither party shall be liable for loss of profit or revenues, or for any special, consequential, incidental, indirect or exemplary damages, even if the other party has been advised of, or had reason to know of, the possibility of such damages." DISCUSS. [107]

9. CONTRACT TEXT: "Performance to Continue. During the pendency of any Dispute process undertaken hereunder, Buyer and Seller shall continue to perform their respective obligations hereunder subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, including without limitation Section 2.3 [payments] and Articles 12 [termination by Buyer without cause] and 13 [termination for cause]." DISCUSS. [108]

10. CONTRACT TEXT: "Seller will conduct its business with, or on behalf of, Buyer in a manner that is consistent with [Buyer] Inc.’s Code of Business Conduct (the 'Business Code'). Seller acknowledges that it has received a copy of the Business Code or will obtain a copy on line and that if it has any questions regarding the Business Code, it will contact Buyer's Executive Director of Corporate Ethics and Compliance at [number omitted]. The Business Code is also available at [URL omitted]." DISCUSS. [109]

11. CONTRACT TEXT: "The development and construction of the Project may be financed through loans from lenders (the “Lenders”). Seller will assist Buyer in its endeavors relating to the financing of the Project, and cooperate with the Lenders by providing such information and access, and in agreeing to such subordination agreements, consents, opinions, certificates, direct agreements and other matters, as the Lenders may reasonably require or as otherwise may be customary in transactions of this type." DISCUSS. [110]

8.163 (L) Terms from an actual contract (2)

1. CONTRACT TEXT: "'Services' shall mean all labor, services, Material, equipment, tools, vehicles, transportation, storage, design, engineering, procurement, Site preparation, construction, installation, equipping, testing, training, and other things and actions necessary to complete and to perform the Services set forth in the Specifications that reference this Agreement." DISCUSS.

2. CONTRACT TEXT: "'Specification' shall mean the detailed scoping document that sets forth the technical requirements for the performance of the Services and is attached hereto as Exhibit A, as may be modified or supplemented by written agreement of the parties from time to time." DISCUSS.

8.164 (L) Purchase order at EOQ

8.164.1 Facts

  • It is September 27. You are a junior in-house counsel for Pet Rocks, Inc., a publicly-traded manufacturer of (wait for it) pet rocks for use as gifts.
  • Pet Rocks, Inc. is on a calendar-year fiscal year, which means that its third fiscal quarter ("3Q") will end in three days.
  • You've just gotten a call from Sam, one of the company's mid-level sales managers. Sam has just received a very large purchase order from Zall-Mart, a global retailer, in anticipation of an expected Christmas rush for pet rocks. Sam is excited because this order would put Sam's group over the top for its annual sales quota. That would mean that Sam (in addition to the sales rep) would get a big commission check in November — which wouild come in handy for him, because Sam and his wife Sue have been wanting to do some much-needed home remodeling. Moreover, under the Pet Rocks, Inc. sales-compensation plan, a.k.a. "comp plan," any additional sales that Same's group might make in the remainder of the year would have an extra commission "kicker" added — plus, Sam and Sue would get to go on the annual "club trip," which this year will be to Hawai'i. (The term club trip refers to the 100% Club, i.e., those sales personnel who achieve 100% of their annual sales quotas.)
  • The general counsel has told all in-house lawyers, in confidence, that Pet Rocks, Inc. is teetering on the brink of "missing" its 3Q number, that is, not meeting the published expectations of the stock-market analysts who follow the company. If that were to happen, Pet Rocks's stock price would almost surely drop significantly, which could trigger a shareholder lawsuit against the company.
  • Sam is not the reckless type, and you and he have worked well together on one past deal. To be on the safe side, Sam has asked you to look over the "fine print" on the Zall-Mart purchase order.
  • Sam tells you that he previously sent Zall-Mart the standard Pet Rocks sales quotation, which contained a link to the standard Pet Rocks terms of sale. He asked the Zall-Mart purchasing agent ("buyer") to sign and return the sales quotation. Zall-Mart's buyer, however, told Sam that as a matter of policy Zall-Mart does not sign vendor sales quotations, and that all purchases must be on Zall-Mart's purchase-order form alone.
  • The Pet Rocks terms of sale are essentially identical to the Honeywell terms of sale.
  • Likewise, the Zall-Mart purchase order terms are essentially identical to the Honeywell purchase order terms.
  • Both Pet Rocks and the Zall-Mart division placing the order are in Houston.

8.164.2 Questions

Taking into account only sections 1, 18.1, and 33 of the Zall-Mart purchase order terms and sections 1, 11.11, 11.12, and 13 of the Pet Rocks terms of sale:

  1. Suppose that Pet Rocks ships the order to Zall-Mart without any kind of sales-confirmation document. How long would Zall-Mart have to claim that the pet rocks were defective, in breach of the warranty? (Hint: Consider both the applicable warranty period and the applicable statute of limitations.)
  2. Same question as 30.1, except that Pet Rocks ships the order, accompanied by an invoice stating that the Pet Rocks terms of sale applied.
  3. Should you advise anyone else in the company about Sam's situation?
  4. What if any input might you want to get from others in the company?
  5. What action would you recommend to Sam?

8.164.3 Suggested reading

8.165 (L) Warranties: Magnuson-Moss Act

8.165.1 "Limited" warranties

Why do so many consumer-product warranty clauses say "Limited Warranty"?

8.165.2 Warranty statements

Under federal law, what are the three minimum requirements for a warranty statement for a consumer product?

8.165.3 Implied warranty disclaimers

Does it make sense for a seller of a consumer product to offer a written warranty?

8.165.4 Resources

8.166 (L) Diamond ring doesn't shine for him anymore

8.166.1 Facts

Your client TexBling is a Houston company that sells jewelry on-line, but only to Texas customers. One particular customer is Nick, an individual living in Houston.

On January 17, Nick clicks on "I agree" to buy a $20,000 diamond engagement ring. He wants to pop the question to his girlfriend, Nora, at a Houston Rockets game on January 26. He has arranged with the Rockets to show his proposal on the Jumbotron at the Toyota Center.

The price of the ring would bust out Nick's credit-card limit, so he checks the box to pay C.O.D. instead and borrows the cash from his parents.

TexBling's Web site says that with ground shipping, the ring should arrive in 7 to 10 days, that is, some time between January 24 and January 26. Nick figures that's good enough, so he doesn't pay extra for second-day air.

January 26 arrives, but the ring doesn't. Nick goes ahead anyway with proposing to Nora at the Rockets game.

To Nick's horror, though, Nora turns him down, bursts into tears, and storms out of the arena to get a cab home — live on the Jumbotron and, as it happens, on national TV. (Here's a real-life example — supposedly.)

The next day, the delivery van arrives with the engagement ring from TexBling. The grief-stricken Nick no longer wants it, though. He refuses to take delivery, and he also refuses to pay for it. (Cue Gary Lewis and the Playboys' 1965 hit This Diamond Ring Doesn't Shine for Me Anymore.)

TexBling, the jewelry vendor — heedless of the potential bad publicity — tells you it wants you to sue Nick for breach of contract in failing to pay for the ring.

8.166.2 Question: Statute of frauds defense?

Could Nick assert a statute-of-frauds defense, on grounds that he never signed a contract? Briefly explain your answer.

8.166.3 Question: Hard copy signature needed?

Could Nick assert that TexBling failed to obtain his handwritten, hard-copy signature, agreeing that it was OK to use electronic signatures? Briefly explain your answer.

8.166.4 Suggested reading

8.167 (L) Reps and warranties (Verizon-Yahoo)

See the Verizon-Yahoo stock purchase agreement.

SMH: Take a look at the original formatting of the Verizon-Yahoo's definition of Business Material Adverse Effect (the link takes you to the definitions section, which includes a link to the definition).

Then compare that formatting with that of the broken-up definition in the course materials (also scroll down again).

QUESTION 1: What representation and/or warranty might Yahoo have breached in connection with the "hacks" that were revealed to have occurred? [111]

QUESTION 2: What right would Verizon have had to walk away from the transaction? [112]

QUESTION 3: Suppose that Verizon went ahead with the closing despite the hack problem. Could Verizon sue for breach of warranty, as happened in CBS v. Ziff-Davis? [113]

FACTS: Suppose that the North Koreans were to launch a nuclear missile at the U.S., with the warhead exploding harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean 100 miles west of Yahoo's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

QUESTION 5: Would this constitute a Business Material Adverse Effect? [114]

QUESTION 6: Whose knowledge qualifies as the Knowledge of Seller? [115]

8.168 (L) Warranties: CBS v. Ziff-Davis, Inc.

Read: CBS, Inc. v. Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., 75 N.Y.2d 496, 553 N.E.2d 997 (1990)

  1. T/F: The warranty that Ziff-Davis supposedly violated, according to CBS, was that Ziff-Davis's financial statements concerning certain consumer magazines had been prepared in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
  2. T/F: CBS concluded that Ziff-Davis wasn't in compliance with the warranty after the deal was closed.
  3. T/F: CBS concluded that Ziff-Davis wasn't in compliance with the warranty during pre-closing "due diligence."
  4. T/F: IF: CBS had concluded that Ziff-Davis wasn't in compliance with the wararanty in question before closing; THEN: CBS could have walked away from the deal.
  5. T/F: The NY Court of Appeals held that CBS's election to close the deal was fatal to CBS's warranty claim.
  6. T/F: The NY Court of Appeals held that CBS's lack of reliance on Ziff-Davis's warranty was fatal to CBS's warranty claim.
  7. T/F: The NY Court of Appeals held that CBS, in effect, purchased Ziff-Davis's promise to indemnify CBS if Ziff-Davis's warranty proved to be unfounded.

8.169 (L) Warranties: Honeywell vs. Honeywell (1)

In a Word document with a table (this is to practice using Word's table feature), very briefly answer the following questions about the warranty- and remedy provisions that Honeywell sets out in the following provisions:

  • the Honeywell terms of sale ([BROKEN LINK: HONBTOSPRODUCTWARRANTY]) ([BROKEN LINK: HONBTOSLIMLIAB]) versus those in
  • the Honeywell terms of purchase ([BROKEN LINK: HONBPOWARRANTY]) ([BROKEN LINK: HONBPOREMEDIESCUMULATIVE]) ([BROKEN LINK: HONBPOLIMLIAB]).

on the following subjects:

  1. To whom does the seller make the warranty — and, thus, who might arguable be entitled to enforce the warranty in court?
  2. How long does the Warranty Period last?
  3. Are the stated warranties the exclusive ones?
  4. How restricted are the remedies for breach of warranty?

8.170 (L) Warranties: Honeywell vs. Honeywell (2)

Same instructions as for Part 1:

  1. For goods: To what extent is the intended use of the goods relevant to the contract terms?
  2. For services: To what quality standards will services conform?
  3. With what laws will the seller comply?

8.171 (L) Warranties: English-law disclaimers

FACTS:

  • Your client, Seller, headquartered in Dallas, manufactures widgets.
  • Seller's CEO, while on a vacation in London, had the good fortune to make friends with a prominent British industrialist; the CEO landed a big order to deliver 1 million widgets to the industrialist's company in Liverpool, and brought back a signed purchase order.
  • You happen to know that Seller's standard terms-of-sale document:
    • includes a statement of limited warranties and remedies;
    • includes the following statement: "ALL OTHER WARRANTIES ARE DISCLAIMED"; and
    • is silent about choice of law.
  • You don't know whether the British industrialist's company has seen Seller's standard terms-of-sale document.

QUESTIONS:

(1) T/F: Texas law will likely apply.

(2) T/F: If article 2 of the Texas UCC applies, Seller's disclaimer will be enough, under UCC § 2-312, to disclaim an implied warranty that Seller has the legal right to convey ownership of the widgets to the purchaser.

(3) T/F: If English law applies, Seller's disclaimer will likely be enough to disclaim all potential liability about the widgets other than as stated in Seller's standard terms-of-sale document.

(4) QUESTION: Could Seller's disclaimer language be improved? How?

SUGGESTED READING:

8.172 (L) Warranties: Who can sue?

FACTS:

  • You represent ABC Corporation, which is negotiating a master purchase agreement under which ABC and its various affiliates can issue purchase orders to buy widgets from XYZ Inc. You've been asked to review a draft of the master agreement, prepared by XYZ's lawyers.
  • One provision of the draft states that "XYZ warrants to ABC that the widgets, as delivered, will be free from defects in materials and workmanship."

HYPOTHETICAL: Suppose that one of ABC's affiliate corporations were to order widgets under this master agreement, and it turned out that those widgets did have defects.

QUESTION 1: Would the affiliated corporation be able to sue XYZ for breach of warranty? [116]

QUESTION 2: As ABC's lawyer, how could you improve the warranty provision on this point? [117]

8.173 (L) Employment agreements (in progress)

8.173.1 Basic employment agreements

References: See the Common Draft:

  • Model Employment Agreement Form
  • Model Employment Agreement Provisions (yellow-highlighted & footnoted)
    • Non-compete provisions (review)
    • Entire agreement notes:
      • "Final, complete, exclusive, and binding"
      • "No other representations" — but that likely won't preclude a misrepresentation claim
      • "No reliance on external representations" — TX. S. Ct. has said this can defeat a misrepresentation claim
    • Arbitration
      • Democrats in Congress are making ugly noises about one-sided arbitration agreements
    • Equitable relief
      • Waiving the bond requirement is dangerous
    • Governing law
    • Forum selection
    • Signature – waive signature by the company?

8.173.2 Executive employment agreements

Reference: Sheryl Sandberg employment agreement (annotated)

9 Counseling availability

The university- and law-school administrations have asked all faculty members to include the following information in their syllabi: The university's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help students who are having difficulties managing stress, adjusting to the demands of a professional program, or feeling sad and hopeless. You can reach CAPS ([BROKEN LINK: www.uh.edu/caps]) by calling 713-743-5454 during and after business hours for routine appointments or if you or someone you know is in crisis. No appointment is necessary for the “Let's Talk” program, a drop-in consultation service at convenient locations and hours around campus. http://www.uh.edu/caps/outreach/lets_talk.html

Footnotes:

[1]
Homework is worth 60 points.
[2]
You could still pass the course, but you'd have to make up the missing points.
[3]
Mutual consultation on homework is encouraged, but (1) each student must do his or her own work, and (2) you should indicate in your homework whom you collaborated with.
[4]
C. The final exam.
[5]
B. Format the style of the paragraph.
[6]
Just include numbers, not words.
[7]
"I heard that was never planned, but was a spontaneous gesture of respect by crane drivers."
[8]
The sentence should be written as: "Attached are three files: The event surveys; the CLE sheet for DC; and the mailing list sign up form."
[9]
Full payment is due in 30 days (but 30 days from when?).
[10]
It doesn't specify when the 30 days starts.
[11]
Yes — this isn't a representation, it's a covenant.
[12]
Presumably so.
[13]
Alice's lawyer's objection might be a clue that the lawyer, or Alice, or both, might be difficult to deal with.
[14]
Yes: (a) 8% per month is 96% per year — that should trigger worries about usury statutes. (b) Under Texas usury law, a safe harbor for interest rates is to have the interest start to accrue 30 days after the due date of the payment.
[15]
One possibility would be not to do anything to this provision, because under the Texas usury statute, the interest provision might very well be void as usurious. (But you'd want to make sure that the usury statute actually applied, i.e., that the late-payment charge would be properly characterized as "interest" under the statute.)
[16]
The Consumer Price Index.
[17]
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — see https://www.bls.gov/cpi/
[18]
Chances are that the court would rule against your client Buyer, because you drafted the price-increase limitation.
[19]
If the title were just "Agreement," then* the title wouldn't be as informative when the title is listed in an index or other referring document. Notice how I used the word "then" as a separator — this helps the reader see more quickly where the "if" clause ends and the "then" clause begins.
[20]
That paragraph is referred to as the preamble.
[21]
This flags the definitions of those defined terms; when the first instance of a defined term is eye-catching in this way, it helps the reader to find the term's definition more quickly.
[22]
(1) If Seller were ever to have to sue Buyer, it would be important for the complaint (in federal court and some state courts) or original petition (in Texas state courts) and subsequent documents to identify Buyer precisely. ¶ (2) One reason to state the type of entity is to inform future trial counsel, because that could affect whether a federal court can exercise diversity jurisdiction. That's because for diversity-jurisdiction purposes, courts generally treat LLCs as having the citizenships of its members, in contrast to a corporation having its own citizenship. See generally, e.g., Sevan Ogulluk and Jason Lissy, How to Determine the Citizenship of LLCs (Hint: Keep Digging!) (BNA.com 2014).
[23]
Stating a corporate party's principal place of business can help to establish at least one permissible location for (i) personal jurisdiction, and (ii) venue — which are two different things (albeit related).
[24]
It's convenient to have the parties' initial address for notice on the front page of the contract, so that future readers don't have to go paging through the document looking for it.
[25]
It's a good idea to state Sam's place of residence to establish one permissible venue (a county, usually) in which Sam could be sued if necessary.
[26]
Yes — as a minor, Billy probably does not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract.
[27]
Yes – does Beta-Beta Research actually have the financial wherewithal to pay $1 million per year? Any concerns in this area could be addressed with, for example: •a personal guaranty from Billy; • a standby letter of credit from a bank or other financial institution • a hefty deposit, coupled with the ability to terminate and repossess the computer for failure to pay rent.
[28]
A romanette is a lower-case Roman numeral in parentheses.
[29]
To give future readers — e.g., company exectives, trial counsel, judges — a quick introduction, to help get them up to speed.
[30]
At least in U.S. jurisdictions, a contract doesn't need any of these things to be enforceable.
[31]
Otherwise, the contract might bind only Seller or only Buyer (in which case the contract would be a call option or a put option).
[32]
(1) "Seller shall sell" is certainly acceptable for the U.S., because here the word shall is generally understood as mandatory. That might not be the case, though, in other English-speaking countries; see the Common Draft definition of "shall" and its commentary (scroll down to the New Zealand and Australia mentions). ¶ (2) When drafting a contract for a seller, I prefer to use, for example, "Customer will do X" instead of "Customer shall do X" because the former is arguably more respectful in tone — because after all the customer doesn't have to do the deal ….
[33]
"USD" is a standard abbreviation for U.S. dollars. Note how the usage is "USD $800."
[34]
Yes, of course parties are free to change the Closing Time and Closing — but sometimes it doesn't hurt to throw in things like this anyway, to give some reassurance to non-lawyer readers on the other side of the deal.
[35]
A "safe harbor" clause says, in essence (for example), you don't have to do things this way, but if you do, you can't be attacked for having failed to do it properly. (Safe harbors are often seen in securities law and tax law.)
[36]
"For the avoidance of doubt" is a British-ism, a signal to a judge that what follows is a guide to interpretation. (Some practitioners dislike for-the-avoidance-of-doubt provisions, feeling that contract language should be clear enough not to need such interpretive guides. This is a worthy aspiration, but in practice it might not always be achieved.)
[37]
Unless the term is defined, a court might treat the term as being subject to the doctrine of ejusdem generis.
[38]
Any clause for the sale of one or more assets is likely to include a clause like this, which could be referred to as a "lockdown" clause. We see similar provisions in merger- and acquisition agreements, in wnich the seller is required to continue running the business "in the ordinary course," and thus requiring the seller to get the buyer's approval for extraordinary transactions.
[39]
If you wanted to be more emphatic, you could try "Seller may not use the Computer …" or "Seller must not use the Computer …."
[40]
No and no — but Seller might have included section 2 as a way of increasing the "curb appeal" of the total offering.
[41]
Seller might not be the one to actually perform the clean install (e.g., Seller might take the computer to the Apple Genius bar).
[42]
An affirmative covenant (as contrasted with a "thou shalt not" negative covenant).
[43]
A "condition."
[44]
Because Buyer wants the right to walk away from the deal — and not be in breach of contract for doing so — if the stated prerequisites aren't met.
[45]
"D.R.Y. — don't repeat yourself." Repetition is dangerous: You might change one instance but forget to change the other. (A bank lost $693,000 that way.)
[46]
Seller has no obligation to remove the Grateful Dead decals, and thus won't be in breach of contract if the decals aren't removed. BUT: Buyer can walk away from the deal if the decals are left on the computer.
[47]
"To Seller's knowledge" is ambiguous: It could mean: • Seller knows for a fact; or • Seller doesn't have any knowledge one way or another. Under contra proferentem, if Seller drafted the agreement (which will usually be the case for a small transaction like this), other things being equal, the ambiguity would be construed against Seller.
[48]
Buyer can walk away from the deal, without being in breach of contract.
[49]
To "kick the can down the road" in lieu of drafting a more-specific standard of performance. (Note how "more-specific" is hyphenated.)
[50]
Because we care more about whether the action gets done (Seller gets paid) than about who, exactly, is performing the action. ¶ (In some circumstances, though, we might care greatly about just who is performing the action.)
[51]
"Is to be paid" could work.
[52]
A cashier's check could be counterfeit, in which case the bank would have no obligation to honor the check.
[53]
An acknowledgement.
[54]
(1) The other side might add text to the bottom of the page just before the signature page. QUESTION: How could this concern be addressed? (2) A question might arise as to whether the individual who signed the signature page was using the signature page from (let's say Draft #10 of the contract or Draft #11). QUESTION: How could this concern be addressed?
[55]
To make it clear when the contract is actually being signed — this is important in transactions involving public companies, which must report their earnings quarterly, because the date of actual signature is important for determining when earnings (or expenses) are permitted to be "recognized" under generally-accepted accounting principles. See generally the discussion of the dangers of backdating for deceptive purposes in [BROKEN LINK: CABackdating][BROKEN LINK: CABackdating] of On Contract Drafting.
[56]
In U.S. jurisdictions (and likely others as well), an agreement to agree ("A2A") is generally unenforceable. If a material term of a contract is the subject of an A2A, it's possible that the contract might not be valid.
[57]
An agreement to negotiate in good faith can be enforceable, but it can open up a can of worms if one party later accuses another of refusing to negotiate in good faith, or of negotiating in bad faith.
[58]
That might be a litigatable question — the County might take the position that the contracted-for services were sufficiently unique that consent was required for any assignment by Port Operations. ¶ Also, a given state might have a statute like that of New York, which prohibits contracts with state agencies from being assigned.
[59]
That might depend on the applicable state law — in many jurisdictions, a merger is deemed to cause a transfer of assets to the surviving company, which would trigger the consent requirement.
[60]
In negotiating the contract, Port Operations might have asked: (1) for the assignment-consent provision to be deleted; ¶ (2) for an exception in the case of an all-asset transfer; ¶ (3) for a requirement that the County's consent not be unreasonably withheld, together with a fast-track arbitration provision.
[61]
Chances are that the court would rule in favor of Seller, because you (on behalf of Buyer) drafted the price-increase provision.
[62]
Consumer Price Index.
[63]
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — see https://www.bls.gov/cpi/
[64]
Chances are that the court would rule against your client Buyer, because you drafted the price-increase limitation.
[65]
Both ABC and UOP are likely to be deemed "merchants" under the UCC, but that might depend on facts not specified in our hypothetical situation.
[66]
Under UCC § 2-207, the P.O. terms are likely binding to the extent that they match the terms in the order and any additional terms otherwise agreed to by the parties.
[67]
Quite possibly – section 1 provides that (1) Alice's title as "account executive" might create a fact issue — requiring a trial — as to whether someone holding that title has "apparent authority" to bind ABC. ¶ (2) Even if Alice hadn't signed the P.O., ABC's shipment of goods might well qualify as acceptance of an offer for a unilateral contract.
[68]
Yes – by its terms, the [BROKEN LINK: HONBPOWARRANTY] runs to "Honeywell's" customers and end users. And under [BROKEN LINK: HoneywellPOAcceptance], the term "Honeywell" refers to "the member of the Honeywell International Inc. group of companies identified on the face of this document …." ¶ This doesn't mean that the refinery would necessarily win — but ABC might have to spend a lot of money defending itself; quaere whether it has sufficient insurance.
[69]
UOP likely would try to sue ABC under the [BROKEN LINK: HONBPOGenIndemn] provision. Again, UOP might not win, but the case might cost ABC a lot of money.
[70]
Possibly the "fit for intended purpose" warranty — but is that warranty language sufficiently clear UOP likely would try to sue ABC under the [BROKEN LINK: HONBPOGenIndemn] provision. Again, UOP might not win, but the case might cost ABC a lot of money.
[71]
Not under the purchase order (see the [BROKEN LINK: HONBPORemedies] section), but definitely under the limitations of liability in the [BROKEN LINK: HONBTOSLIMLIAB].
[72]
A warranty implicitly includes an indemnity obligation.
[73]
False: This doesn't reduce the risk, it merely allocates it.
[74]
True.
[75]
False: The proper phrasing would be "Alice will indemnify Bob," that is, reimburse him (or, make him whole).
[76]
An indemnity is a reimbursement; a warranty is a promise to reimburse (i.e., indemnify) someone if a warranted state of affairs turns out not to be true.
[77]
False — it doesn't reduce the risk, it allocates the risk.
[78]
True.
[79]
False — it should be "Alice will indemnify Bob [i.e., future tense] …."
[80]
Full payment is due in 30 days (but 30 days from when?).
[81]
It doesn't specify when the 30 days starts.
[82]
Yes — this isn't a representation, it's a covenant.
[83]
Presumably so.
[84]
Alice's lawyer's objection might be a clue that the lawyer, or Alice, or both, might be difficult to deal with.
[85]
Yes: (a) 8% per month is 96% per year — that should trigger worries about usury statutes. (b) Under Texas usury law, a safe harbor for interest rates is to have the interest start to accrue 30 days after the due date of the payment.
[86]
One possibility would be not to do anything to this provision, because under the Texas usury statute, the interest provision might very well be void as usurious. (But you'd want to make sure that the usury statute actually applied, i.e., that the late-payment charge would be properly characterized as "interest" under the statute.)
[87]
Basically, the user must terminate his or her PayPal account: "We may amend this user agreement at any time by posting a revised version on our website. The revised version will be effective at the time we post it. If we change the user agreement in a way that reduces your rights or increases your responsibilities, we will provide you with 30 days’ prior notice by posting notice on the Policy Updates page of our website." ¶ The amendment to the arbitration provision states in part: "If you do not agree to these amended terms [of arbitration], you may close your PayPal account within the 30-day period and you will not be bound by the amended terms."
[88]
Yes — as a minor, Billy probably does not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract.
[89]
Yes – does Beta-Beta Research actually have the financial wherewithal to pay $1 million per year? Any concerns in this area could be addressed with, for example: • a personal guaranty from Billy; • a standby letter of credit from a bank or other financial institution; • a hefty deposit, coupled with the ability to terminate and repossess the computer for failure to pay rent.
[90]
A and B. In rare circumstances, courts will treat C, a representation of a future fact, as a covenant or warranty (in essence, bailing out the incompetent drafter), e.g., I represent that I will pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. NOTE: For drafting purposes, treat A and B as the only correct answers.
[91]
Here's a general "proof checklist" for an action for misrepresentation? (a) A statement, made by the defendant; (b) The statement was false or misleading when made; (c) (With variations:) The defendant knew, or should have known, that the statement was false or misleading; (d) (With variations:) The defendant knew, or should have known, that the plaintiff would rely on the statement; (e) The plaintiff did in fact rely on the statement; (f) The plaintiff's reliance was reasonable; and (g) The plaintiff suffered damage attributable to the statement.
[92]
This is a matter of convention – like It's not customary to include factual representations in the recitals. It might also be dangerous to do so: If memory serves, in some jurisdictions the courts might not treat the recitals as part of the contract. ¶ The safer thing to do would be to rework the recitals as a "1. Background" section and have the parties make whatever initial representations they're willing to make.
[93]
Perhaps by having the seller say simply, "so far as I'm aware, the car has no significant problems, but I'm not a mechanic and haven't had a mechanic check it out."
[94]
That'd be a bad idea — phrased that way, the statement is likely to be taken as a definitive statement that indeed there are no problems.
[95]
Two reasons come to mind: (1) An amended and restated agreement is compact, with everything in one document instead of having an original document and then one or more separate amendment documents. ¶ (2) SEC regulations required Facebook to publicly file Sandberg's employment agreement. If the parties had merely done an amendment document, then Facebook would have had to file both the amendment document and the original agreement that was being amended — and one or both parties might have wanted to keep the original agreement confidential.
[96]
Fine, but it's not something Sandberg's lawyer would likely have requested — it takes time; it creates the risk of overlooking a change; and it doesn't add a lot of value.
[97]
Is this a representation by Sandberg? Or is it a commitment by Facebook?
[98]
Because the beneficiary of a rep or warranty will always want to ask for both a rep and a warranty. (Whether the beneficiary will insist on both is another matter.)
[99]
Salary numbers should be expressed as an annual rate to be clear that, if the employee gets fired partway through the year, the employee is not entitled to be paid for the rest of the year. If Facebook were to make the change requested by Sandberg's lawyer, then that change would give Sandberg ammunition to argue the opposite, namely that she was entitled to be paid for the rest of the year.
[100]
Facebook would probably respond that it did not want to have to separately manage the mechanics of paying Sandberg, which would be at least modestly burdensome to the company's payroll department.
[101]
DCT COMMENTS: (1) "Whom" is incorrect. (2) I'd be nervous about saying that the individual "shall be in charge" of Seller's performance.
[102]
DCT COMMENT: That might give Buyer a blank check (so to speak) to decline to pay — sort of like "Hollywood accounting."
[103]
DCT COMMENTS: (1) This self-serving language might not cut it in court. (2) Cumulative remedies might be problematic — liquidated damages are supposed to be the exclusive form of damages.
[104]
DCT COMMENTS: (1) "Represents and warrants" – Seller will want to figure out which it wants to do for which statement. (2) That's a lot of potential plaintiffs. (3) What exactly is "the specific purpose of Buyer"?
[105]
DCT COMMENT: "All applicable laws and permits in effect …" is a pretty broad statement.
[106]
DCT COMMENT: What is "its intended purpose"?
[107]
DCT COMMENT: So does the exclusion of "loss of profit or revenue" mean that Buyer isn't liable for the purchase price?
[108]
DCT COMMENT: This language might force Seller to keep going "in the hole" even if Buyer isn't paying its bills.
[109]
DCT COMMENT: Seller won't want to have to manage complying with the various Business Codes of all of its different customers.
[110]
DCT COMMENT: This might be too open-ended a commitment for Seller's taste.
[111]
See, e.g., § 2.08, No Undisclosed Liabilities; § 2.09, Disclosure Controls and Procedures; §2.10, Litigation.
[112]
See § 5.02, Conditions to the Obligations of Purchaser, especially subdivision (c) (officer's certificate).
[113]
No, for two reasons, one legal, one practical: (1) Section 8.01 states that reps and warranties won't survive the closing; and ¶ (2) With as many stockholders as Yahoo has, it would be impracticable to try to sue them for rescission or damages.
[114]
For discussion – be sure to read the last few paragraphs of the definition.
[115]
For discussion.
[116]
Possibly not, because the warranty is to ABC. In any case, that's a conversation you don't want to have.
[117]
One possibility, with two steps: (1) Define a term such as Buyer (or perhaps Purchaser) as, whichever entity is making purchases under the master agreement; and (2) Rewrite the warranty provision to read, "XYZ warrants to Buyer" instead of "XYZ warrants to ABC …."