This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
If the written contract is ambiguous in indicating the subject-matter of the contract, extrinsic evidence is admissible to identify it.1 Extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what is included by the words "entire estate'2 It may be shown what "et cetera" includes.3 Extrinsic evidence is admissible to identify a debt,4 or a note,5 or a check.6 So in a contract to return a "due-bill," if the company did not issue a policy applied for, evidence is admissible to show that the "due-bill" was a note given for the premium of such policy.7 So in a contract to assume and pay the "debts" of a firm, it is permitted to show what are the debts of the firm,8 and to show that a debt appearing on the books of the firm is in fact the individual debt of one of the partners.9 So in a contract to assume and pay "claims of all persons who have performed labor upon, or furnished materials for us, in or on said property," evidence is admissible to show what claims are included.10 Even in a contract required to be proved by writing, oral evidence can be used to identify "the bills" guaranteed,11 or an "account" guaranteed.12 If a mortgage is given as security for a specified sum "more or less" for goods sold and money lent as evidenced by a running account, extrinsic evidence is admissible to identify the items which are secured by such mortgage.13 So where a deed is given as security for "money owing," extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what money was owing when the deed was delivered, and that this debt was intended even if incurred after the date of the deed.14 So where two writs of replevin issued for the same property and two replevin bonds are given, evidence is admissible to show which bond was given for which writ.15 Under a contract to deliver at a certain dock which was described by its popular name, extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what dock was thus designated.16 If an order is given for silverware, some of which is described as "Rogers Bros., 1847," and the rest of which is described "E. S. Co., 1935," extrinsic evidence is admissible to show that all of such silverware was intended to be "Rogers Bros., 1847," and that the expression "E. S. Co.," was intended to provide that the silverware thus described should be marked with the seller's initials, since it was made expressly for the seller.17 In a sale of peaches to be grown in "sundry orchards," in two counties named,18 or a contract to sell all the timber on "their lands'19 evidence is admissible to show what land the parties intended. So in a sale of a certain lot of logs, evidence is admissible to show what logs were intended, and hence that the amount of lumber was overestimated.20 So evidence is admissible to identify "nine walnut trees."21 So extrinsic evidence is admissible to identify the property referred to in an insurance policy, as to show what was meant by " shed and additions attached, "22or in a policy insuring a "cold storage warehouse,' to show that a shed was part of the warehouse.23 A policy which provides that it shall become void if the premises becomes vacant, may be explained by evidence tending to show that when such policy was issued the building was unfinished.24 Extrinsic evidence is not admissible to show that the property insured was a different piece of property from that described in the policy, if the action is brought on the policy.25 In a conveyance of realty or in a contract for the sale of realty, extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what realty conforms to the description in the written contract, and thus to show what realty the parties intended to convey or to contract for.26 Extrinsic evidence is admissible to show the actual boundaries of the tract in question,27 as to show what is meant by the "point" of a cliff, and "thence with the cliff."28 So in a contract to sell "coal in the northern hill as far as the center," extrinsic evidence is admissible to show the hill on grantor's land intended by this contract.29 So if land is described by its ownership, and approximate, though not exact location,30 as where in a contract of sale the name of the owner is given and it is said to front on Waters Road,31 or by its popular name,32 extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what land was intended. Thus under a contract for the sale of a half interest in "Linn Grove Mills and the land thereunto belonging," extrinsic evidence is admissible to identify the land.33 Under a mortgage of "the quartz mill and lode, formerly owned by" a specified person, extrinsic evidence is admissible to show what property answering to such description was owned by such person.34 So in a contract to lease a house described by its ownership, and the street on which it is located, extrinsic evidence is admissible to supply the house number.35 So in a contract whereby A authorized B to sell certain lots, agreeing that when B had sold enough lots to realize five thousand, five hundred dollars, A would convey to B the remainder of the lots, B could introduce parol evidence to show what lots he had sold, in order to show what the remaining lots were.36 So under a contract to divert the waters of a given brook, it may be shown that both branches thereof were intended, neither having a name.37
1 England. Cowen v. Truefitt ,
2 Ch. 551 [affirmed (1899), 2 Ch 309]. United States. Bradley v. Packet
Co., 38 U. S. (13 Pet.) 89, 10 L. ed. 72; Reed v. Ins. Co., 95 U. S. 23, 24 L. ed 348; Buckbee v. Hohenadel, 224 Fed. 14, 139 C. C. A. 478, L. R. A. 1916C, 1001.
Alabama. Moore v. Paving Co., 118 Ala. 563, 23 So. 798; Edwards v. Bender, 121 Ala. 77, 25 So. 1010; Reynolds v. Trawick, 197 Ala. 165, 72 So. 378.
Arkansas. Blackburn v. Thompson, 127 Ark. 438, 193 S. W. 74.
California. Osborn v. Hoyt, - Cal. - , 184 Pac. 854.
Georgia. Follendore v. Follendore, 110 Ga. 359, 35 S. E. 676; King v. Brice, 145 Ga. 65, 88 S. E. 960; Morris v. Beckum, 145 Ga. 562, 89 S. E. 704; Swint v. Swint, 147 Ga. 467, 94 S. E. 571