Brown v. Poston

Decision Date07 May 1954
Docket NumberNo. 32716,32716
Citation44 Wn.2d 717,269 P.2d 967
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesBROWN, v. POSTON et al.

Lycette, Diamond & Sylvester, Seattle, Lyle L. Iversen, Seattle, of counsel, for appellant.

Ferguson & Burdell, Calvin C. Culp, Seattle, of counsel, for respondents.

HILL, Justice.

This action was brought by the plastering subcontractor against the general contractor to recover the difference in cost between the metal lath the former was required to use and the gypsum or rock lath which he asserted his subcontract would have permitted him to use on the ceilings of certain classrooms in a school building being erected by the general contractor. After trial, the action was dismissed, and this appeal followed.

The trial court found:

'That looking at both the plans and specifications there is a requirement for the use of channel suspended metal lath in the construction of the ceilings in the classroom area of Unit B, second floor, and that construction of said ceilings in said manner is not an addition to the work required under the contract.'

Under the view we take of this case, that finding is determinative of the issues presented and, unless appellant can successfully attack it, it becomes unnecessary to discuss any other assignments of error.

Appellant attacks that finding on the basis that it was arrived at by undertaking to construe an unambiguous contract. Appellant relies on certain language in the specifications relating to the lathing and plastering requirements which is not ambiguous and which, when applied to the disputed area, would call for rock lath. However, the specifications are not the only source for determining these requirements, since they are also included in the construction details of the plans. Appellant contracted to perform the plastering work 'as per plans and specification,' thereby incorporating both documents into the subcontract. George C. Lemcke Co. v. Nordby, 1921, 117 Wash. 221, 200 P. 1103; Vance v. Ingram, 1943, 16 Wash.2d 399, 133 P.2d 938; see, also, Houghton v. Hoy, 1918, 102 Wash. 358, 172 P. 1148, and annotation in 1907, 9 L.R.A.,N.S., 1007.

In Bellingham Securities Syndicate v. Bellingham Coal Mines, 1942, 13 Wash.2d 370, 384, 125 P.2d 668, 676, one of the cases relied upon by appellant, we stated:

'It is only in those cases where the writing fails to provide the answer to a question of meaning that the courts may look elsewhere for aid in construction. Where the terms are plain and unambiguous, the meaning of the contract is to be deduced from its language. 17 C.J.S., Contracts, § 296, page 695. That the position of appellant is correct and it is unnecessary to resort to aids to construction is clear from an examination of the whole contract, which must be construed as a whole, and the intention of the parties gathered from the entire instrument.' (Italics ours.)

Here the trial court was required to interpret the subcontract in the light of both the specifications and the plans, which were a part thereof. In Restatement, Contracts, § 235, under comment on clause (c), p. 322, it is said:

'd. Where a writing contains a sentence or paragraph of doubtful meaning when taken by itself, it may be made clear by other parts of the writing, and even words which have in themselves a clear meaning may be controlled and given a different meaning because of other parts of the writing.' (Italics ours.)

The plans are at variance with the provision of the specifications upon which appellant relies, and the subcontract taken as a whole is ambiguous. Appellant's brother, who made the estimates on this job, admitted that such variations existed when he stated that he installed metal lath in other parts of the building when called for by the plans even though not called for by the specifications. It was also stated in a letter written by appellant that 'There seems to be conflicting meanings as to the interpretation of the plans and specifications,' and that his estimate was based upon 'information gathered from details on sheets #19 and 20.' (The sheets referred to are part of the plans.) Several experts testified that appellant's interpretation of the plans was erroneous and that, properly interpreted, the plans called for metal lath in the disputed area.

The subject matter of the contract was technical in nature, and many of the terms and drawings included in the plans and specifications could not be interpreted intelligently without reference to testimony to explain them. Not only did the meaning of these terms and drawings, when disputed, become an issue of fact, but when their meaning thus explained disclosed the...

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6 cases
  • Ecorp, Inc. v. Rooksby
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 19 Abril 2001
    ...or terms of art are used and evidence is properly admitted showing meaning, the question becomes one of fact."); Brown v. Poston, 44 Wash.2d 717, 269 P.2d 967, 969 (1954) ("The subject matter of the contract was technical in nature, and many of the terms and drawings included in the plans a......
  • Oliver v. Alcoa, Inc., CASE NO. C16-0741JLR
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Washington
    • 9 Septiembre 2016
    ...policy, despite insurer's argument that policy documents did not "explicitly describe any easement being insured"); Brown v. Poston, 269 P.2d 967, 968, (Wash. 1954) (holding that where subcontractor contracted to perform plastering work on building "as per plans and specifications," such pl......
  • Forrester v. Craddock
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • 21 Noviembre 1957
    ...as trial of the fact, determine the intention of the parties. See Henry v. Morrow, 49 Wash.2d 270, 273, 300 P.2d 574; Brown v. Poston, 44 Wash.2d 717, 721, 269 P.2d 967; Keeter v. John Griffith, Inc., 40 Wash.2d 128, 131, 241 P.2d 213; State Bank of Wilbur v. Phillips, 11 Wash.2d 483, 489, ......
  • Sons of Norway v. Boomer
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 14 Enero 1974
    ...as trier of the fact, determine the intention of the parties. See Henry v. Morrow, 49 Wash.2d 270, 273, 300 P.2d 574; Brown v. Poston, 44 Wash.2d 717, 721, 269 P.2d 967; Keeter v. John Griffith, Inc., 40 Wash.2d 128, 131, 241 P.2d 213; State Bank of Wilbur v. Phillips, 11 Wash.2d 483, 489, ......
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