Doubtful language in a contract is construed most strongly against the party preparing the instrument or employing the words concerning which doubt arises.
Defendant nursing home and the decedent entered into an agreement relating to a life membership in the nursing home. The decedent died during the probationary period, during which either party could void the agreement. After the death of the decedent, the estate, through plaintiff administrator, made a demand for performance under the agreement, including pertinent by-laws, and demanded that the nursing home refund the amount paid under the agreement. The district court granted judgment in favor of the estate. The nursing home sought review and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.
Did decedent's death during the probationary period void the agreement between the parties?
The court found that under the authorities, the home could not claim or retain the decedent's property because the death of the decedent made it impossible to determine whether she would have become a permanent inmate at the end of the probationary period. The court held that a reasonable person, in the position of the decedent at the time of the execution of the contract, would have understood the provisions of that instrument to mean that unless and until she attained the status of a life member in the home she, or her estate, would be entitled to a return of the money paid by her for that right.