Life Care Ponte Vedra, Inc. v. Wu, ___ So. 3d ___, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D367 (Fla. 5th DCA February 6, 2015)
The plaintiffs entered into a contract with a continuing care retirement community. Although the contract provided for termination before and after occupancy, a larger refund applied before occupancy. When the plaintiffs terminated their contract, the defendant paid the smaller, post occupancy refund, but the plaintiff’s contended that they were entitled to the larger, pre occupancy refund and sued for breach of contract to recover the difference. The trial court entered summary judgment for the plaintiffs based upon its determination that the contract should be construed against the drafter because it was ambiguous. Although the appellate court agreed that the contract was ambiguous, it reversed because the trial court applied the doctrine of contra proferentum before attempting to determine the parties’ intent by other means. This rule, which requires the court to construe a contract against the drafter, is a secondary rule of construction that should not be resorted to if other means of ascertaining the intent of the parties exists. The trial court erred by failing to consider extrinsic evidence and by granting summary judgment in the face of an ambiguous contract. “As a general rule, if a contract is ambiguous, the parties’ intent becomes a question of fact for the fact-finder, precluding summary judgment.”
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