The Parol Evidence Rule: Forget Blue State/Red State, New Jersey is an Egg State

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This age-old causality dilemma dates back to ancient philosophers, but can also be viewed as a metaphor for the debate over the breadth of the parol evidence rule. Ah, the parol evidence rule. Its mere mention plagues many lawyers with nightmares from the first year of law school. As Professor John Henry Wigmore has observed, while the parol evidence rule is easily framed, it “is attended with confusion and obscurity which makes it the most discouraging subject in the whole field of evidence.”

The ‘chicken’ approach to contract interpretation would suggest a restrictive application of the parol evidence rule that focuses upon the final, written agreement. A clear and unambiguous writing is the best identifier of the intentions of parties who agreed to be bound by the terms of that writing, right?

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