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Conflicting interpretations and any others that are supported by reasonable inferences from the evidence must be resolved by a trier of fact. The fundamental goal of contractual interpretation is to give effect to the mutual intention of the parties, and questions of intent and purpose are ordinarily questions of fact. Where an agreement is reasonably susceptible of different interpretations, summary adjudication is an inappropriate means of resolving an ambiguity.
Cohabitants, appellant promisee and testator, entered into an oral support agreement and an oral property agreement. Following testator's death, appellant brought an action against respondents, administrator and heirs of testator's estate, to enforce the agreements. Summary judgment was granted to respondents. Appellant sought review, arguing that the court erred in granting the summary adjudication motion, and that she was entitled to a trial on her causes of action.
Was the grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents proper under the circumstances?
The court reversed and found that testator's promises of care had created a triable issue of fact as to the support agreement's existence and that conflicting interpretations of those promises had also created a triable issue of fact. Moreover, the court found that the agreement was not uncertain and that the writing requirement of Cal. Prob. Code § 150(a) was inapplicable because the oral agreement was not a contract to make a will or a contract to make a devise. As for the oral property agreement, the court found triable issues of fact regarding the agreement's existence and equitable estoppel's preclusion of the statute of frauds. Finally, the court found appellant's causes of action for declaratory relief, specific performance, constructive trust, and injunctive relief were viable actions for the enforcement of the cohabitation agreements.