πŸ” How do judges interpret contracts?

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When interpreting a disputed contract, Massachusetts judges must look at the contract itself as well as all other evidence that may help explain the meaning of the documents and the intention of the parties.

According to the Supreme Judicial Court,

Contract interpretation is largely an individualized process, with the conclusion in a particular case turning on the particular language used against the background of other indicia of the parties’ intention”…Thus, we must “construe the contract with reference to the situation of the parties when they made it and to the objects sought to be accomplished.”  As a result, the scope of a party’s obligations cannot “be delineated by isolating words and interpreting them as though they stood alone. Not only must due weight be accorded to the immediate context, but no part of the contract is to be disregarded.”

(The quote is taken from A-Z Servicenter, Inc. v. Segall, 334 Mass. 672 page 675. The Court’s citations were omitted.)

Additionally, the Appeals Court has held that

Parties to a written contract may, of course, alter it subsequently, by oral modification, by their joint conduct, or, ideally, by a writing subscribed to by the persons to be bound.

See Fred J. Findlen v. Winchendon Housing Authority, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 977 Page 978.

If you are signing a contract–especially a long-term contract–it is crucial that you save not just the contract itself but every other record, email, text, or other pertinent document related to the agreement.

All of it may be relevant if you end up in court.

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