August 27, 2007
"Natural Meaning" and Contracts
When a court interprets a contract, it often looks for what is called the "natural meaning" of the language. Sometimes, however, one of the parties argues after the fact that parties used language in a manner different from the "natural" meaning that an ordinary lawyer or judge would apply. Whether (and when) courts should give effect to these "unnatural" meanings has been a troublesome issue in contract law for a century or so.
A new paper by John Carter and Elisabeth Peden (both at Sydney) takes a look at The 'Natural Meaning' of Contracts. Here's the brief abstract:
This article considers the concept of 'natural meaning' used in the construction of contracts. It considers the relevant theoretical aspects of construction law and the differences between linguistic meaning, legal effect and application of the contract. The conclusion is that ultimate question is always the meaning or application which the parties intended the words to have, whether natural or not.
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