What is a Scrivener’s Error?
What should you know about this legal doctrine?
What are the important elements you should know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of Scrivener’s Error so you know all there is to know about it!
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What Is A Scrivener’s Error
A Scrivener’s Error (or scrivener error) is a type of error or mistake that is absolutely clear.
For example, a clerical error, mistake by inadvertence, a minor mistake, or the unintentional addition or omission of a word altering the meaning of a contract or legal document.
In law, the Scrivener’s Error doctrine is one that states that when there is a typographical error or a minor mistake, the court can correct the mistake when it’s absolutely clear.
For example, if there is a typographical mistake in a contract, the court may correct the mistake by admitting parol evidence to the extent the evidence clearly shows the mistake.
Who is a scrivener
A scrivener or scribe used to refer to a person who was able to read and write.
The scrivener’s duty was to write letters for the court, draft legal documents and perform duties having to read and write material and content.
Historically, scriveners handled tasks and duties relating to business and judicial record-keeping along with maintaining historical records for the king.
Eventually, the role of a scrivener evolved into that of lawyers, accountants, and notaries (among other professions).
Scrivener’s Error definition
What is the legal definition of Scrivener’s Error?
The legal doctrine of Scrivener’s Errors refers to the principle that a typographical mistake in a contract may be corrected by the courts provided evidence convincingly shows that there was a mistake.
When the court authorizes a correction to be made under this principle, we generally refer to that as the Scrivener’s Amendment.
For the sake of completeness, let’s look at the etymology of the term in the English language.
The term “Scrivener” comes from the Middle English term “Scriveiner” and Anglo-French “escrivein” both rooted in the Latin term “scriba” (meaning scribe).
Scrivener Error Doctrine
Scrivener Errors are errors or mistakes made while copying or transmitting a legal document.
This is not the same thing as when the courts make a mistake in drafting a judgment (judgment error) or when there is a mistake in interpreting the law (technical error).
There are bodies of case laws dealing with correcting errors in contract law, in legislative texts, or other legal documents.
When a Scrivener’s error may affect a person’s property or property rights, the courts will generally require that those impacted by the correction provide their approval.
It’s important to note that if the error is not “absolutely clear”, correcting a less obvious mistake may result in the reformulation of a contract or legislative text.
Scrivener’s Error examples
The courts will exercise great care and prudence when making a Scrivener correction to a document to avoid altering its meaning.
In the case In re 11 West Partners, LLC, the Delaware Court of Chancery refused to reform a contract by indicating that it was not convinced that the error was so clear and obvious.
When the contract language is clear and there is no clear, precise and convincing evidence of the mistake, the court will not make a Scrivener’s Amendment to the contract.
In another case, Young v. Verizon’s Bell Atl. Cash Balance Plan, No. 05-c-7314, 2009 WL 3677350 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 2, 2009), the court ordered the reformation of a document resulting in a $1.0 billion savings for Verizon.
So what is the legal definition of Scrivener’s Error?
Let’s look at a summary of our findings.
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