Hussein-Scott v. Scott

[CONTRACT LAW]

In Hussein-Scott v. Scott,[1] the supreme court held that the more important or principal clause controls in determining the meaning of an ambiguous divorce settlement agreement.[2] Jerry Scott and Camilla Hussein-Scott dissolved their marriage and the court adopted by reference a form settlement completed by Jerry and reviewed by Camilla.[3] On the line supposedly designating the end date for spousal support payments, Jerry indicated that payment would end on December 2, 2020, which was the eighteenth birthday of the couple’s youngest daughter.[4] On a subsequent line designated for other specifics, Jerry indicated that payment would end on the couple’s middle daughter’s birthday, which was August 1, 2015.[5] The lower court reasoned that words should prevail over numbers and held that Jerry’s obligation to pay spousal support ended on the eighteenth birthday of the middle daughter.[6] On appeal, Jerry argued that the lower court’s factual finding that he was less likely to make an error in writing a child’s name than in writing the date of a child’s birthday should be given deference.[7] The supreme court reversed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the determination of the lower court was not factual and that the principle that words control over numbers did not apply here because it only applies to contracts that resemble commercial agreements.[8] The court further reasoned that the written date was both more important because of its location on the form and because it appeared first on the form.[9] Reversing the lower court’s decision, the supreme court held that the more important or principal clause controls in determining the meaning of an ambiguous divorce settlement agreement.[10]

 



[1] 298 P.3d 179 (Alaska 2013).

[2] Id. at 180.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 181.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 184.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. at 180.

Hussein-Scott v. Scott

[CONTRACT LAW]

In Hussein-Scott v. Scott,[1] the supreme court held that the more important or principal clause controls in determining the meaning of an ambiguous divorce settlement agreement.[2] Jerry Scott and Camilla Hussein-Scott dissolved their marriage and the court adopted by reference a form settlement completed by Jerry and reviewed by Camilla.[3] On the line supposedly designating the end date for spousal support payments, Jerry indicated that payment would end on December 2, 2020, which was the eighteenth birthday of the couple’s youngest daughter.[4] On a subsequent line designated for other specifics, Jerry indicated that payment would end on the couple’s middle daughter’s birthday, which was August 1, 2015.[5] The lower court reasoned that words should prevail over numbers and held that Jerry’s obligation to pay spousal support ended on the eighteenth birthday of the middle daughter.[6] On appeal, Jerry argued that the lower court’s factual finding that he was less likely to make an error in writing a child’s name than in writing the date of a child’s birthday should be given deference.[7] The supreme court reversed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the determination of the lower court was not factual and that the principle that words control over numbers did not apply here because it only applies to contracts that resemble commercial agreements.[8] The court further reasoned that the written date was both more important because of its location on the form and because it appeared first on the form.[9] Reversing the lower court’s decision, the supreme court held that the more important or principal clause controls in determining the meaning of an ambiguous divorce settlement agreement.[10]

 



[1] 298 P.3d 179 (Alaska 2013).

[2] Id. at 180.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 181.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 184.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id. at 180.