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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

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Written by Thoughts From Our Readers   
Sunday, 25 March 2018

A 36Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Pallamary and Foose
I offer comments on two articles in your January 2018 issue.
 Michael Pallamary presents a fascinating combination of history, hydrology, and high-handedness on the part of the court in its weighing of the rights of a landowner versus those of the United States. Normally, a court will be exceedingly reluctant to rule in favor of a party who does not have clean hands. Where one side of the dispute has knowingly misbehaved, it offends basic principles of justice and fair play to award the cookie to that side. I am appalled that the Steuve court apparently did not take into account that the government deliberately did not tell the landowner about a survey on its land during which the government's surveyor placed stakes that were impossible find or to see. This sort of action is generally considered fraud. Yet the court apparently ignored it. Very disturbing.

The comments and observations offered by Jason Foose this month include the exhortation to "Be certain to read every description and clause contained in a document. This can be revealing and it requires time and detail." Cue the choir for a loud Amen. As a lawyer, I know that absolutely every word in a document has the potential for being important, and even things as seemingly small as the placement of a comma can totally change the meaning of a sentence.1 Many years ago, as a newly-minted attorney, I had a commercial lease to review. It consisted of a pre-printed form lease that had changes typed in the margins. Over the years it had been renewed and amended several times, with supplementary provisions and riders added, and some of those superseded by later ones. I took a deep breath and very carefully read every word of all those assembled sheets of paper, mentally keeping track of what was added and what had lapsed as changes were made over time. I did this all on the train down to a meeting in Baltimore to negotiate with the landlord my client's relocation to another floor to accommodate a much larger client in the building. I had been told that my client was obligated to move by the end of the year so the larger firm could take over January 1st, and was instructed to see if I could get anything from the landlord to help us pay for the completely new installation we would need on the new floor we were going to. When we were about ten minutes out of Baltimore, I stopped my reading and let out a whoop. My eyes had been glazing over from slowly reading absolutely every word in the document, when I encountered one word that changed everything. And. Before we would have to relocate, we had to receive specific advance notice and a second condition had to be met. That second condition couldn't be met until the following April. But the landlord had missed that crucial and, so he had already rented our space to the other firm, ignoring the reality that we still had occupancy rights until April. The worst possible mistake any landlord can make is to rent the same space at the same time to more than one party, which was exactly what this landlord had done. Obviously, we were going to vacate early so the other firm could expand, and obviously we would relocate to the new space on the other floor. But suddenly with the discovery of that one word and, I knew that I would have no difficulty persuading the landlord to pay for a completely new installation in our new space that would meet our every need and wish, and that he would pick up all costs of the move, probably down to the party we would throw in the new quarters once we had settled in. One word made all the difference, but it took very slow and careful reading of a complicated document to find that single word.
--Andrew Alpern
Via the Internet

1 "Let's eat, Grandma." versus "Let's eat Grandma."

Editor's note: Given how "tetchy" everyone has become, the magazine does not condone cannibalism, especially with anyone's grandma.

A 36Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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