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Ambiguity

Uncertainty or doubtfulness of the meaning of language.

When language is capable of being understood in more than one way by a reasonable person, ambiguity exists. It is not the use of peculiar words or of common words used in a peculiar sense. Words are ambiguous when their significance is unclear to persons with competent knowledge and skill to understand them.

There are two categories of ambiguity: latent and patent. Latent ambiguity exists when the language used is clear and intelligible so that it suggests one meaning but some extrinsic fact or evidence creates a need for interpretation or a choice among two or more possible meanings. In a classic case, Raffles v. Wichelhaus, 159 Eng. Rep. 375 (Ex. 1864), a contract was made to sell 125 bales of cotton that were to arrive on a ship called Peerless that sailed from Bombay, India. Unknown to the parties to the contract, two ships of the same name were to arrive from the same port during different months of the same year. This extraneous fact necessitated the interpretation of an otherwise clear and definite term of the contract. In such cases, extrinsic or Parol Evidence may be admitted to explain what was meant or to identify the property referred to in the writing.

A patent ambiguity is one that appears on the face of a document or writing because uncertain or obscure language has been used.

In the law of contracts, ambiguity means more than that the language has more than one meaning upon which reasonable persons could differ. It means that after a court has applied rules of interpretation, such as the plain meaning, course of dealing, Course of Performance, or Trade Usage rules to the unclear terms, the court still cannot say with certainty what meaning was intended by the parties to the contract. When this occurs, the court will admit as evidence extraneous proof of prior or contemporaneous agreements to determine the meaning of the ambiguous language. Parol evidence may be used to explain the meaning of a writing as long as its use does not vary the terms of the writing. If there is no such evidence, the court may hear evidence of the subjective intention or understanding of the parties to clarify the ambiguity.

Sometimes, courts decide the meaning of ambiguous language on the basis of who was responsible or at fault for the ambiguity. When only one party knew or should have known of the ambiguity, the unsuspecting party's subjective knowledge of the meaning will control. If both parties knew or should have known of the uncertainty, the court will look to the subjective understanding of both. The ambiguity no longer exists if the parties agree upon its meaning. If the parties disagree and the ambiguous provisions are material, no contract is formed because of lack of mutual assent.

Courts frequently interpret an ambiguous contract term against the interests of the party who prepared the contract and created the ambiguity. This is common in cases of adhesion contracts and insurance contracts. A drafter of a document should not benefit at the expense of an innocent party because the drafter was careless in drafting the agreement.

In Constitutional Law, statutes that contain ambiguous language are void for vagueness. The language of such laws is considered so obscure and uncertain that a reasonable person cannot determine from a reading what the law purports to command or prohibit. This statutory ambiguity deprives a person of the notice requirement of Due Process of Law, and, therefore, renders the statute unconstitutional.

ambiguity

n. when language has more than one meaning. If the ambiguity is obvious it is called "patent," and if there is a hidden ambiguity it is called "latent." If there is an ambiguity, and the original writer cannot effectively explain it, then the ambiguity will be decided in the light most favorable to the other party.

ambiguity

uncertainty in meaning. In legal documents an ambiguity maybe patent (i.e. apparent from a perusal of the document) or latent (i.e. one that becomes apparent in the light of facts that become known from sources outside the document). The general rule is that extrinsic evidence can be used to resolve latent ambiguity but not patent ambiguity. Since a landmark case in the UK in 1992, an ambiguity in a statute will allow the court to hear not only the terms of law commission reports but also of the debates in Parliament as recorded in Hansard.

AMBIGUITY, contracts, construction. When au expression has been used in an instrument of writing which may be understood in more than one sense, it is said there is an ambiguity,
     2. There are two sorts of ambiguities of words, ambiguitas latens and ambiguitas patens.
     3. The first occurs when the deed or instrument is sufficiently certain and free from ambiguity, but the ambiguity is produced by something extrinsic, or some collateral matter out of the instrument; for example, if a man devise property to his cousin A B, and he has two cousins of that name, in such case parol evidence will be received to explain the ambiguity.
     4. The second or patent ambiguity occurs when a clause in a deed, will, or other instrument, is so defectively expressed, that a court of law, which has to put a construction on the instrument, is unable to collect the intention of the party. In such case, evidence of the declaration of the party cannot be submitted to explain his intention, and the clause will be void for its uncertainty. In Pennsylvania, this rule is somewhat qualified. 3 Binn. 587; 4 Binn. 482. Vide generally, Bac. Max. Reg. 23; 1 Phu. Ev. 410 to 420; 3 Stark. Ev. 1021 ; I Com. Dig. 575; Sudg. Vend. 113. The civil law on this subject will be found in Dig. lib. 50, t. 17, 1. 67; lib. 45, t. 1, 1. 8; and lib. 22, t. 1, 1. 4.

References in periodicals archive ?
Given an ambiguous game G = (N, A, [THETA], M, [OMEGA], U), suppose that, for any pure strategy profile [rho], [m.sub.[rho].sub.i] ([B.sup.[rho].sub.i]) = [[xi].sup.[rho].sub.i], [m.sup.[rho].sub.i] ([[THETA].sup.[rho].sub.i]) = 1 - [[xi].sup.[rho].sub.i] [B.sup.[rho].sub.i] [subset] [[THETA].sup.[rho].sub.i], and [[omega].sup.[rho].sub.i] [member of] [[OMEGA].sub.i];.
3 cases presented as phenotypically female with virilised external genitalia, while only one of them showed ambiguous genitalia (Table 4).
Sections III and IV present our main experiment in which we offer a large group of subjects the choice to bid from their own money for either a risky or an ambiguous prospect, using first-price sealed-bid auctions.
Ambiguous Adventure foretells a grim future of a global monoculture, dramatizing the swift ruin of a people who must choose between marginalization and assimilation.
"I guess it's ambiguous whether or not certain things are happening, and it definitely raises a few questions," says Durkin, "but the goal was to raise those questions because they're Martha's questions."
The final result likely will hinge on whether courts consider the regulations to be a reasonable interpretation of ambiguous Code provisions.
"Since all national histories are at best morally ambiguous, it's an open question whether citizens should love their countries."
Pauline Boss (2006), Loss, Trauma, and Resilience; Therapeutic Work With Ambiguous Loss, New York: Norton, 251 pp., $27,50 (hardcover), ISBN: 0393704491.
Summary: New Delhi [India], Aug 16 (ANI): The Congress on Friday termed as "somewhat ambiguous" remarks by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that India follows 'no first use' policy regarding nuclear weapons and what happens in the future will depend on "circumstances".
According to an April 12 announcement, the Advisory Committee, which reports to the Judicial Council, resolved at its March 2019 meeting to publish the possible rules revisions addressing the ambiguous nature of the word "shall" in the rules.
KEYWORDS: Ambiguous genitalia, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Disorder of Sex Development.
These losses, referred to as ambiguous losses by Pauline Boss (1999), refer to physical or psychological experiences that are not as identifiable as traditional losses such as death and that are unclear to both the people who are connected to them and society as a whole.