A Legal Easter Egg from the Beginning of Time

April 26th, 2008

Legal releases are strange beasts, and philosophically one of my least favorite legal documents. California law requires that specific language be in a release in order to make it completely binding- in other words, if you don’t use the right language to say that the releasing party expressly relinquishes claims based on both currently known and unknown facts, then the releasing party can still make a claim if new facts come to light later. There is a special paragraph that has to appear verbatim in release agreements under California law to ensure that the release is complete.

I really hate “magic words” like this. Courts should look to the intent of the parties in determining whether a release is complete, not whether certain words have been invoked.

That’s actually an aside, though. This post is about a related, but different point. I mentioned the magic words to illustrate how careful attorneys need to be when they prepare releases. If they don’t cover all the potential sources of claims, it is possible for something to sneak back in. A release, then, cites the origin of the dispute and specifically releases any and all claims relating to it.

This morning I read an agreement that takes the idea to a perfectly logical, completely sensible under the circumstances, and yet still amusing conclusion. The language is clipped below, and expressly releases all claims “from the beginning of time”.

Where parties have had a longstanding relationship it makes perfect sense that the release should cover the relationship since the very beginning. No question that this gets there, and it even works regardless of one’s scientific and religious viewpoints. This is like a legal easter egg to me- clever, unexpected and there just for the attentive reader.

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