My first Scribes board meeting
What is the possessive of “Blind Boys of Alabama”?

Ambiguous punctuation leads to loss of attorney’s fees (or is it attorneys’ fees?)

Last week, a Florida appellate court reversed an award of attorney’s fees awarded following an offer of judgment because “ambiguities in the offer prevent its enforceability.” The cause of the ambiguity: misplaced apostrophes:

The offer was apostrophe-challenged, creating ambiguities as to whether the drafter intended references to singular or plural defendants or plaintiffs. The offer, entitled “Defendant’s Joint Proposal for Settlement,” also appears to have been adopted from a form without sufficient editing; it requires “Plaintiff’(s)” to “execute a stipulation,” and “Plaintiff(s)” to “execute a general release of “Defendant(s).”

Bradshaw v. Boynton-JCP Assocs., Ltd., No. 4D11-4242 (Fla. App. 4th Dist. Apr. 10, 2013). (Hat tip to Law 360.)

This case reminds me of a recurring question: Is it “attorney’s fees” or “attorneys’ fees”? Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage says that either is okay. The former is prevalent, but the latter may be preferable when more than one attorney is referred to.


p.s. (23 Apr. 2013): To read Garner’s take on “attorney’s fees” v. “attorneys’ fees,” click here.