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Did Your Lawyer’s Ambiguous Language In A Document Or Contract Harm You?

Did you bring a lawsuit that failed because the judge or jury deemed a key legal document your attorney drafted ambiguous and proceeded to construe it against you as the drafting party? Or were you sued because the words in a contract your lawyer drafted created ambiguity that allowed more than one reasonable meaning? In these scenarios, you may receive a money judgment against you, have sustained business or personal financial losses, or taken on liability for unplanned legal fees and costs.

The blame for such a loss points to the lawyer who drafted the agreement or other legal document containing the ambiguous language or provision. In some instances, the client who was harmed by the ambiguity may be able to file a legal malpractice suit against the drafting attorney.

One of the main responsibilities of an attorney is to draft legally sound and clearly written legal documents needed to meet their clients’ goals. For example, consider the crucial importance to individual and commercial clients of valid legal documents such as:

  • Contracts and agreements
  • Deeds
  • Wills and trusts
  • Documents creating new business entities like articles of incorporation or partnership agreements
  • Residential and commercial leases
  • Loans and mortgages
  • Warranties
  • Insurance policies
  • Marital agreements
  • Releases
  • Legal notices such as for eviction
  • Communications with legal ramifications such as a letter to cease and desist or a demand letter
  • Employment agreements
  • Powers of attorney
  • Licenses
  • Settlement offers and agreements
  • And many others

The Problem Of Ambiguous Language

A critical component of competent legal-document drafting is that the chosen words, phrases, sentences and overall writing do not create a document ambiguous on its face (patent ambiguity). Florida courts have said that patent ambiguity results from “defective, obscure, or insensible” drafting.

Nor should the document result in ambiguity when construed in light of later events or circumstances (latent ambiguity), even when the language might be clear.

The Florida Supreme Court has emphasized that ambiguity in an agreement or other legal document is present when its language has unclear meaning or leads to opposing conclusions, or more than one interpretation or construction is reasonable or fair.

Ambiguity And Litigation

Drafting ambiguity can come up in many areas of law and a variety of scenarios. For example, in one Florida case, the issue was whether in a noncompete agreement, a limit on practicing medicine within “five square miles” means within a five-mile radius of another medical practice or something else?

A legal malpractice lawyer can advise you about your legal options if you believe your attorney’s careless drafting of a legal document caused you harm. It will depend on whether your lawyer failed to adhere to the applicable standard of care and whether you were financially or otherwise injured as a result. Do not hesitate to contact legal counsel about your potential remedies against your former attorney.