Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Contract Construction as a matter of law vs. resolution of contract ambiguity

INTERPRETING WRITTEN INSTRUMENTS



The question of whether a written instrument is ambiguous is a question of law. Heritage Res., Inc. v. NationsBank, 939 S.W.2d 118, 121 (Tex. 1996). “If the written instrument is so worded that it can be given a certain or definite legal meaning or interpretation, then it is not ambiguous and the court will construe the contract as a matter of law.” SAS Institute, Inc. v. Breitenfeld, 167 S.W.3d 840, 841 (Tex. 2005).


An ambiguity does not arise simply because the parties advance conflicting interpretations of the contract. Columbia Gas Trans. Corp. v. New Ulm Gas, 940 S.W.2d 587, 589 (Tex. 1996). If the contract is subject to two or more reasonable interpretations after applying the pertinent rules of construction, the contract is ambiguous. Id. But if after we apply the relevant rules of construction, a contract can be given a definite legal meaning, the contract is unambiguous, and we construe it as a matter of law. Frost Nat’l Bank v. L & F Distributors, Ltd., 165 S.W.3d 310, 312 (Tex. 2005).


SOURCE: Tyler Court of Appeals - 12-10-00250-CV - 7/13/11