Failing to carefully review a legal document can be expensive – in one recent case, it cost a homeowner $7,000. In the summer of 2011, a satellite dish installer broke a water line at a Mecklenburg County, North Carolina residence. The resulting damage to the property was significant, and the homeowner submitted a claim with the installer’s insurance agent. After initially receiving $7,000 from the insurance company in partial payment of the damages, the homeowner offered to settle for $38,020. The insurance company agreed, and sent the homeowner a document releasing the insurance company and the installer from any future claims. The homeowner signed the release and waited for his check. When it came, the check was only for $31,020. The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the homeowner’s lawsuit for the remaining balance. According to the Court’s decision, the plain language of the settlement documents indicated that the homeowner had agreed to accept $38,020 in total, even though he thought he was settling for $38,020 in addition to what he had already received. Even the simplest documents can have multiple interpretations – in this case it was just a few words which meant the difference between $38,020 and $45,020. The lesson – an expensive one in this case – is to make sure you always understand not only what you think a contract means, but what the other side thinks it means. If you have any questions about contracts or litigation matters, please feel free to contact us.
Vann Attorneys | Raleigh Law Firm