Contract Construction – Contra Preferentum

Jackson v. Enterprise State Community College, [Ms. SC-2023-0098, Aug. 25, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Cook, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur) affirms a summary judgment entered by the Coffee Circuit Court in favor of Enterprise State Community College (“ESCC”). ESCC brought a contract action against Reddoch Shane Jackson who had suffered an on-the-job injury. ESCC alleged Jackson breached a written settlement agreement requiring him to resign his position as Assistant Plant Supervisor if he failed to produce “a ‘fit-for-work’ certificate from an orthopedic surgeon on or before August 31, 2017.” Ms. *2.

Jackson argued the settlement agreement was “ambiguous regarding what kinds of documentation could meet the ‘fit-for-duty-certificate’ requirement….” Ms. *16. The Court disagrees, “the ordinary, plain, and natural meaning of paragraphs two and three in the settlement agreement make clear what was required of Jackson for him to retain his position as the ‘Assistant Plant Supervisor’ for ESCC. Therefore, contrary to Jackson’s argument on appeal, the doctrine of contra proferentem – a doctrine of last resort that should be used only when ‘all other rules of contract construction fail’ – is inapplicable here. Ms. *24, quoting Homes of Legend, Inc. v. McCollough, 776 So. 2d 741, 746 (Ala. 2000).

Related Documents