When the English Translation Controls

Foreign language translation and foreign language interpretation issues often come up in domestic and international litigation. In a case involving a forged Picasso print (David Tunick, Inc. v. Kornfeld, 813 F. Supp. 988 (US Dist. Court SD NY, 1993), the Defendants argued the amended complaint should be dismissed as the “terms and conditions” that governed the auction bar such an action in that they specify that the court of Berne, Switzerland has exclusive jurisdiction and that the Plaintiff’s failed to properly “protest” the action in accordance with the terms.

Much of the controversy regarding the terms and conditions centers around the foreign language translation of them. According to the court, the foreign language translation of the terms differ, specifically the German foreign language translation contains statements that are different from the English language translation. For instance, the English translation does not state that Berne has exclusive jurisdiction. However, because the English translation of the terms was submitted to the court by both the Plaintiff and Defendant, the court resolved the ambiguity in favor of the plaintiff in accordance with Keaty v. Freeport Indonesia, Inc., 503 F.2d 955, 957 (5th Cir. 1974).

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