Universal C. I. T. Credit Corp. v. Daniel, A-3211

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Citation243 S.W.2d 154,150 Tex. 513
Docket NumberNo. A-3211,A-3211
Decision Date31 October 1951

Page 154

243 S.W.2d 154
150 Tex. 513
No. A-3211.
Supreme Court of Texas.
Oct. 31, 1951.

[150 Tex. 514]

Page 155

Forrester Hancock, Waxahachie, Dan Moody, Austin, J. C. Lazar, New York City, for petitioner.

Page 156

Lynn Griffith, Waxahachie, for respondent.

CALVERT, Justice.

Under date of October 21, 1948, respondent, J. B. Daniel, then doing business as an automobile dealer in Waxahachie, Texas, entered into a written contract with petitioner, Universal C.I.T. Credit Corporation, under the terms of which respondent agreed to sell to petitioner acceptable paper covering new and used cars.

The contract is headed 'Retail Protection Agreement For [150 Tex. 515] Automobile Dealers' and is set out in full as a footnote to the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals. The parties seem to agree that only paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 and part of paragraph 7 have any pertinency here. These sections read as follows:

'1. You propose to buy from us, on the basis stated in this agreement, paper acceptable to you covering new and used cars; except as provided in this agreement said paper will be assigned to you without recourse as to the customer's obligation of payment, except that paper covering commercial cars used for long distance hauling, commercial cars of more than two tons capacity, busses, cars used for taxi, jitney, or 'drive-yourself' service, cars sold to relatives or employees, or where otherwise specifically agreed upon, will bear our full recourse endorsement; in such cases you may make any necessary correction in our endorsement and paragraphs 2 and 3 shall not apply.

'2. We will purchase from you each repossessed or recovered car tendered at our place of business within 90 days after maturity of the earliest instalment still unpaid. The purchase price payable on demand shall be the unpaid balance due on the car, limited as stated in paragraph 3. Until paying you we will store the car at our risk and expense and as your property and will deliver it to you on demand.

'3. We shall have no responsibility as to converted or confiscated cars until they are repossessed or recovered and tendered as above. You will allow us the cost of repairing actual direct collision damage necessitating repossession; the allowance is not to exceed the unpaid balance on the car after deducting both the 'as is' value and the amount of any deferred certificate or other special holdback relating to the car. Where the resale value of the repaired car (excluding overhead and salesman's commissions) exceeds the unpaid balance, the excess will be deducted from the collision allowance.

'7. * * * We will be under full recourse liability to you on the assignment of paper covering equipment other than described in paragraph 1 above notwithstanding the language of such assignment * * *. In case we fail to purchase repossessed cars we will be responsible for any deficiency incurred by you in the resale of such repossessed cars at public or private sale held with or without notice, at which you may purchase.'

On December 21, 1948, respondent sold to one R. D. Spann a Hudson automobile, taking in part payment therefor Spann's [150 Tex. 516] installment note, secured by chattel mortgage. On the same day respondent sold and assigned Spann's note and mortgage to petitioner 'without recourse as to customer's obligation of payment.' Spann, having thereafter defaulted in the payment of installments due on his note, delivered the automobile to petitioner, and petitioner, after calling upon respondent to purchase the car at a price equal to the unpaid balance due on the note, with respondent refusing, sold the automobile at public auction for the sum of $1,000. Petitioner, as plaintiff, then instituted this suit to recover from respondent, as defendant, damages in a sum equal to the unpaid balance due on the note plus certain expenses, less $1,000. A trial before the court without the intervention of a jury resulted in a judgment for plaintiff. The judgment of the trial court was reversed and judgment was rendered by the Court of Civil Appeals that plaintiff take nothing. 238 S.W.2d 727.

It is the position of the petitioner that as to those cars on which the paper was sold to petitioner 'without recourse' the provisions of paragraph 2 of the written contract obligated respondent to purchase from

Page 157

petitioner all repossessed cars tendered to him within the 90 day period at a price equal to the unpaid balance due on the car. It is the position of respondent, fortified by the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals, that the contract is ambiguous, and should be construed most strongly against petitioner who wrote it; that so construing it, the contract imposes on respondent no personal obligation to pay any sum to petitioner on that paper endorsed without recourse.

We come then to an interpretation of the contract. Paragraph 2 of the contract is plain, clear and unambigous. By its terms respondent agreed unequivocally to purchase from petitioner all repossessed or recovered cars at a price equal to the unpaid balance due thereon. However, paragraph 1 specifically provides that paragraph 2 shall not apply in certain cases. What are the cases in which paragraph 2 shall not apply? It is here that the language of the contract is of doubtful meaning. It must be conceded that there is an absence of artistry in the grammatical construction and punctuation of paragraph 1 of the contract, but is its meaning when properly read and interpreted so dubious as to subject the contract to the charge of ambiguity, thereby justifying the court in calling into play the rule of strong construction against the author of an instrument? We think not.

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