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Is a Comma Just Cause to Annul a Contract ?

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posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 05:57 AM
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A single comma, present in one version (the English original) but absent in the French translation. Has turned l`affair Comma into a 2million dollar dispute involving the courts and federal regulators.
The contract between Rogers communications and Aliant contained a cancellation clause, which requires a 1 year notice period . Aliant now wish to exercise that option, but Rogers have cried foul, citing the French translation of the contract.

 



www.theglobeandmail.com
It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal's cancellation.

The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.




Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Absolutely priceless! That is what you get when you attempt to have official bilingualism. Its beggars belief that when you have multiple translations which are open to contextual ambiguity, no one had the foresight to stipulate which version is the controlling original .

This story panders to my prejudice, it would be the French involved


But it is obvious, to me at least that exact translation is extremely difficult, especially if belligerent parties are not willing to accept the spirit of a contract. When they are prepared to base an entire argument on the placement of one comma, then they just opening the floodgates for the lawyers to get their snouts in the trough, using spurious grammarian analysis to challenge contracts just because they wish to absolve them self of contractual obligations. Or as in this case hold a company hostage for profit.

Despicable


edited - because the news block and link were to a Subs only section -- thankyou Duzey




Related AboveTopSecret.com Discussion Threads:
POLITICS: French , the new Lingua Mortum ?

[edit on 23-10-2006 by ignorant_ape]




posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 07:09 PM
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Hello! Been waiting all day to get to post to this. Fascinating bit of stuff. I can't find anything in the article written that this is a matter of English versus French. And I have to tell you the court ruling was ABSOLUTELY correct.

“shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

Standard English punctuation rule states that to insert a phrase separated with two commas, is to pronounce that phrase ancillary to the complete and main thought of the rest of the sentence. So in this case that means that the complete and main thought is this:

shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

That's the main, complete thought conveyed by that sentence.

Ancillary (secondary to) that main thought is "and thereafter for successive five year terms".

By inserting the second comma they made this phrase an "addendum" if you will. They declared it unnecessary to the main message being conveyed. So the sentence, as written in English, declares that the original contract COULD be in force for five years unless either party terminates with a year's notice, and COULD be in force for extensions of five years unless either party terminates with a year's notice.

If they had written it "shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party." It would have had an entirely different meaning. Because the second comma is removed, the phrase "and thereafter for successive five year terms" becomes part of the main message and the sentence is incomplete in information if it is removed. So with only the preceding comma the sentence would be stating that the original contract is in force for five years (basically period), AND could be re-upped for five more years unless either party shuts it down with a year's notice.



posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 09:40 PM
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It is my impression that any well written contract made in 2 or more languages would state which of the languages would be the binding language in the event of a dispute. If this is not stated, then the custom is to use the language of the country in which the contract was signed should there be a discrepancy.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

-- Omar Khayyam



posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 09:47 PM
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Originally posted by Valhall
I can't find anything in the article written that this is a matter of English versus French.

Oops, that's probably my fault. The original news ariticle did make mention of the fact that their were two contracts, one in French and one in English and only one had the extra comma. I suggested the OP change the link because it was subscription only and I was concerned that might keep it from getting upgraded. Sorry for the confusion.


Here's the preview of the article ignorant_ape had used:



The English contract: This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

The French contract: Sous réserve des dispositions relatives à la résiliation du présent contrat, ce dernier prend effet à la date de signature.

globe and mail

I'm not sure which of the contracts was the original and normally when you have a contract in both languages, you stipulate which is the original and binding (I'm sure there's a fancy term for that but I don't know what it is). Both of these are our official languages.

I wonder who exactly translated the contract. Was it Roger's lawyers, Aliant's or was it contracted out?



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