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Inaccurate English to Mandarin Translation
of Lease Agreement Further Complicates
Real Estate Dispute

English to Mandarin Translation of Lease Agreement

Legal disputes arising from real estate contracts and lease agreements written in a foreign language and, therefore, requiring legal document translation services can be quite complicated and expensive, particularly when the agreements have not been properly or accurately translated. When representing clients in real estate transactions where one of the parties involved speaks a foreign language, attorneys should be diligent in ensuring that the contracts are accurately translated by a professional legal translator, and not the parties themselves.

Clementine v. Eco-Life Holdings Corp, 2016 NY Slip Op 312600 involves a breach of contract case for a lease agreement in which the agreement was written in both English and Mandarin. In Clementine, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for unpaid rent for the lease of a billboard sign in Times Square in New York City. The defendants filed a counter claim against plaintiff and a third party claim against plaintiff’s managing member in response claiming that the defendant was fraudulently induced to sign the lease.

After filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment against the defendants on its breach of contract claim. In support of its motion, the plaintiff submitted a copy of the lease agreement that was written in both Mandarin and English which described the specific signage that was to be provided for the billboard, the price, and other essential terms of the contract. The English portion of the contract stated that the plaintiff agreed to provide signage to Defendant.

However, the English into Mandarin translation of the lease agreement differed from the English portion in that the Mandarin text stated that the agreement was between plaintiff and two different entities. In addition, the entity listed on the signature line for the English portion of the agreement was different than the entity listed above the signature line in the Mandarin translation portion of the agreement.

The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion was premature because the plaintiff had refused to respond to the defendants’ discovery requests, which were necessary to a proper defense. The defendants also argued that one of the defendants, who did not speak English, was taken advantage of and thought he was signing a memorandum of understanding with the plaintiff on behalf of a different entity. The plaintiff argued that the court should not consider this individual defendant’s statements regarding what transpired during the parties’ lease agreement meeting because that individual defendant swore that he did not write, read, or understand English. As such, the plaintiff argued, the defendants’ affidavit in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was inadmissible. The defendant corporation also contended that while it may in fact be the legally responsible entity, that meaningful discovery was needed to further clarify the identity of the legally bound party under the lease.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim. The court held that under the hearsay rules, even if the affidavit was not admissible to prove the truth of the matter asserted, because discovery had not yet been conducted, the affidavit was admissible to demonstrate that the third party defendants had made the statements. Id., citing Levbarg v. City of New York, 272 A.D.2d 239 (1st Dept. 2001) [ where declarant may be available to testify, hearsay statement admissible to defeat summary judgment.] The court also denied the plaintiff and third party defendant’s motions to dismiss the counterclaim and third-party claims on the grounds that the elements of fraudulent inducement had been properly alleged and that the pleadings were sufficiently particularized to put the plaintiff on notice of the claim.

For assistance with certified translation of lease agreements and other real estate contracts, contact our legal translation company. Deposition interpreting services are available in more than 100 foreign languages, including Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, Korean, Bosnian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Nepali, as well as such exotic languages as Burmese, and many other uncommon and common foreign languages.

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