more different meanings. Holland, 456 A.2d at 815. Conversely, a contract is unambiguous when a court can ascertain the contract's meaning by merely looking at the contract. Id.
Considering the meaning of the term ambiguity, the court turns to a case where a tenant sued a cooperative association based upon its alleged failure to repair feeder pipes in her apartment. 1901 Wyoming Avenue Cooperative Ass'n v. Lee, 345 A.2d 456 (D.C. 1975). Whereas the tenant claimed the words "interior repairs" in her lease referred only to superficial or decorative work that an owner ordinarily might perform, the association argued that the "interior" of the apartment included the area just behind the plastered surface of the walls and ceiling, thus making the tenant responsible for the repairs. Id. at 460. Asserting that the contract was ambiguous on its face because "the word `interior' as used in the contract was clearly open to several reasonable interpretations," the court concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed and reversed the lower court's grant of summary judgment. Id. at 461.
A court generally will not grant summary judgment where a contract is ambiguous because its interpretation inevitably would "depend on the credibility of extrinsic evidence or on a choice among reasonable inferences to be drawn from extrinsic evidence." Holland, 456 A.2d at 815; Atwood, 43 F.3d at 1540. Conversely, summary judgment is appropriate where the contract is unambiguous since "absent such ambiguity, a written contract duly signed and executed speaks for itself and binds the parties without the necessity of extrinsic evidence." Id.
In deciding whether contract language is susceptible of a clear meaning, the court conducts a reasonableness inquiry. Toward that end, the court looks beyond the language itself and determines what a reasonable person in the position of the parties would have thought the disputed language meant. 1010 Potomac Assocs. v. Grocery Mfrs. of Am., Inc., 485 A.2d 199, 205 (D.C. 1984). The court applies the reasonableness determination whether or not the contract's language appears ambiguous. Patterson, 795 A.2d at 683; Fairfax Village Condo. VIII Unit Owners' Ass'n v. Fairfax Vill. Cmty. Ass'n, Inc., 726 A.2d 675, 677 n. 4 (D.C. 1999).
In 1010 Potomac Associates, the court held that the parties could not reasonably have intended the clause "option to expand" in a commercial lease to limit the tenant's right to exercise an option to lease additional space and then sublet that space for substantial profit. 1010 Potomac Assocs., 485 A.2d at 202, 206-07. As the court explained, "[a]n interpretation of the lease that so imperiled the security of commercial transactions dependent on it would not give reasonable and effective meaning to all the lease terms." Id. at 207.
Under the reasonableness approach, the court assumes that the objective reasonable person assessing the contract's language knows "all the circumstances before and contemporaneous with the making of the agreement." Patterson, 795 A.2d at 683; Intercounty Constr. Corp. v. District of Columbia, 443 A.2d 29, 32 (D.C. 1982). The reasonable person is bound by all usages that either party knows or has reason to know. Intercounty Constr. Corp., 443 A.2d at 32. The objective standard applies both to the circumstances surrounding the contract and the parties' course of conduct under the contract. Id. Finally, the court should look to the intent of the parties entering into the agreement. Id.
4. The Use of Extrinsic Evidence
Courts should resort to extrinsic evidence of the parties' subjective intent only when the contract is ambiguous. 1010 Potomac Assocs., 485 A.2d at 205. The court may consider extrinsic evidence to determine the circumstances surrounding the making of the contract so as to ascertain what a reasonable person in the position of the parties would have thought the words meant. Christacos v. Blackie's House of Beef, Inc., 583 A.2d 191, 194 (D.C. 1990) (quoting 1010 Potomac Assocs., 485 A.2d at 205-06). Among the types of evidence that the court may consider are the circumstances before and contemporaneous with the making of the contract, all habitual and customary practices which either party knows or has reason to know, the circumstances surrounding the transaction, and the course of conduct of the parties to the contract. Waverly Taylor, Inc. v. Polinger, 583 A.2d 179, 182 (D.C. 1990).
C. The Court Denies Without Prejudice the Parties' Respective
Motions for Summary Judgment
The court denies without prejudice the pending motions for summary judgment because Section 2.3(b)(iii)(C), the contract provision at issue, is reasonably susceptible to different interpretations and is therefore ambiguous. A court deeming a contract ambiguous generally will disfavor summary judgment because its interpretation of the contract likely would depend on a choice among reasonable inferences to be drawn from extrinsic evidence. Holland, 456 A.2d at 815. The court first sets forth the basis for its conclusion that the contract is ambiguous and then explains that it will consider extrinsic evidence.
1. The Contract Provision at Issue is Ambiguous because it is Reasonably