Have your documents been translated? Have you seen the source document? Who translated it? In New York, federal and state courts have placed a burden on parties and their attorneys to obtain independent translation, and found against those who fail to do so despite real questions as to whether all parties understood the contents of a document. Consider:
In Martinez Tapia v. Banque Indosuez 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 29260 (1999), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held a Mexican-American businessman who spoke only Spanish to the terms of an English-language contract he had signed on the basis of oral misrepresentations made to him in Spanish. Said the court: "[W]here the contract involves a substantial sum and no emergency prevents access to a competent translator, an individual who does not seek an independent translator is negligent even if a representative of the other contracting party gives an inaccurate oral translation that omits the crucial term."
In Aceros Prefabricados, S.A. v. Tradearbed, Inc. 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5143 (2001), a New York federal court denied a defendant's motion for reconsideration predicated on a mistaken translation which had been submitted by the plaintiff. "[Defendant] had the opportunity to submit certified translations of the letters at issue but failed to do so."
In People v. Morel 798 N.Y.S.2d 315; 2005 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1041 (2005), the Second Department (New York intermediate appeals court) upheld a criminal conviction where the Spanish-speaking defendant's self-incriminating statements at the crime scene were interpreted by a bystander who happened to be bilingual. "If a party has made an interpreter an agent for the purpose of translating what he or she says, the interpreter's translation may be received as party admissions so long as there is no motive to mislead and no reason to believe the translation is inaccurate."
*Disclaimer* The text of this section is anecdotal and does not constitute legal advice of any kind. Author is not an attorney and makes no representation as to the current standing of the law in New York or any other federal or state jurisdiction. The author encourages all parties involved in or contemplating legal action to consult an attorney licensed in their jurisdiction.