ambiguity revisited … and Husson too?


So on the same day the Court issued the decision I just blogged on, finding that ambiguity doesn't necessarily mean two reasonable interpretations, the Court issued Coastal Ventures v. Alsham Plaza, 2010 ME 63 [].  This is what I call a "road map" decision, in that it's full of tidbits on lots of different issues of law (e.g., when the decision below is final and the appeal clock starts.).  But the point I want to blog on is what the Court (Gorman, J.) said about ambiguity.

This was a contract case, and the Court ruled that because language was ambiguous, extrinsic evidence could be examined.  Here's how the Court described ambiguity:

-  The court concluded, and we agree, that the provision, within the context of the rest of the agreement, is “reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation” and therefore ambiguous. Madore v. Kennebec Heights Country Club, 2007 ME 92, ¶ 7, 926 A.2d 1180, 1183 (P27) [ ]

– Contrary to Alsham's contention, the language is ambiguous. See Madore, 2007 ME 92, ¶ 8, 926 A.2d at 1183-84. The language in paragraph one could be reasonably interpreted to prohibit Coastal from engaging in a competing business or reasonably interpreted to prohibit Coastal from selling competing products.  (P30; emphasis in original)

Call me crazy, but it sounds to me like the court is defining ambiguity to mean two reasonable interpretations.  As I discussed in my last blog, however, at least in the context of statutory interpretation and for purposes of deference, you can have ambiguity when one of the multiple interpretations isn't deemed reasonable, and, therefore, worthy of deference.

This is probably just an issue of semantics, and I guess for practical purposes we just need to keep the rules as just articulated by the Court in our heads:  (1) when interpreting a statute, if there is a possibility of multiple interpretations, the Court will look at context, legislative history, and purpose to decide which interpretation(s) is/are reasonable and so worthy of deference; and (2) when interpreting a contract, the court will decide looking at the contract language whether the agreement is susceptible of two reasonable interpretations, and if so, leave resolution to the factfinder applying extrinsic evidence.

On a completely different note, reports that the ABA committee on law school accreditation has recommended, in a draft, to drop the tenure requirement.  You may recall that this was the sticking point that articulated by Husson University to the SJC when arguing why the SJC should not require ABA accreditation for its proposed new law school.  [].