Category Archives: Interpretation

Christopher French, ‘Insurance Policies: The Grandparents of Contractual Black Holes’

Introduction In their recent article, The Black Hole Problem in Commercial Boilerplate, Professors Stephen J Choi, Mitu Gulati, and Robert E Scott identify a phenomenon found in standardized contracts they describe as ‘contractual black holes’. The concept of black holes comes from theoretical physics. Under the original hypothesis, the gravitational pull of a black hole […]

Donald Drakeman, ‘Consequentialism and the limits of interpretation: do the ends justify the meanings?’

Abstract A recent consequentialist resurgence in transnational legal scholarship urges judges in cases involving authoritative texts to make decisions based on which outcomes will be best for society. Some consequentialist scholars assert that judges should openly disclose these reasons, while others advocate replacing them with any plausible argument employing the traditional language of interpretation. This […]

Kar and Radin, ‘Pseudo-Contract and Shared Meaning Analysis’

Abstract Over the last several decades, courts have struggled with when to enforce boilerplate text as contract. An example is the copious digital text that consumers receive links to before clicking ‘I agree’ to a purchase. Everyone knows that recipients rarely read this boilerplate text and would not understand it if they did. Still, given […]

Lauren Simpson, ‘#OrdinaryMeaning: Using Twitter as a Corpus in Statutory Analysis’

Introduction … This Comment advocates the theory that Twitter can be used as a corpus to assist judges in determining the ordinary meaning of language. Part II will give an overview of corpus linguistics and how it helps fill gaps left open by traditional tools of statutory interpretation, such as dictionaries. It will then explain […]

‘“A Major New Move” in Contract Interpretation’

Omri Ben-Shahar and Lior Strahilevitz, Interpreting Contracts via Surveys and Experiments, University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics Research Paper No 791 (2017), available at SSRN. Despite its practical importance, contract interpretation is the red-haired stepchild of the 1L classroom – the doctrine is infamously incoherent, rests on law/fact distinctions which even the […]

Stephen Mouritsen, ‘Objective Plain Meaning in Common Law Contracts’

Abstract When called upon to interpret the undefined language of a common law contract, judges and lawyers have for centuries appealed to the so-called Plain Meaning Rule – a canon of contractual interpretation that states that if the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, courts cannot consider extrinsic evidence. This rule is often […]

Geoffrey Vos, ‘Contractual Interpretation: Do judges sometimes say one thing and do another?’

Introduction It is perhaps obvious that many people say one thing and do another, and they do not say exactly what they mean. This may be what Lord Hoffmann was speaking about when he said in Mannai Investments Co Ltd v Eagle Star Life Assurance Co Ltd [1997] A.C. 749 that ‘If one meets an […]

John Ramer, ‘Corpus Linguistics: Misfire or More Ammo for the Ordinary-Meaning Canon?’

Abstract Scholars and judges have heralded corpus linguistics – the study of language through collections of spoken or written texts – as a novel tool for statutory interpretation that will help provide an answer in the occasionally ambiguous search for ‘ordinary meaning’ using dictionaries. In the spring of 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court became the […]

Gries and Slocum, ‘Ordinary Meaning and Corpus Linguistics’

Abstract This paper demonstrates how corpus analysis, and similar empirically-based methods of language study, can help inform judicial assessments about language meaning. We first briefly outline our view of legal language and interpretation in order to demonstrate the importance of the ordinary meaning doctrine, and thus the relevance of tools such as corpus analysis, to […]

Martin Kelly, ‘Mixed-up Wills, Rectification and Interpretation: Marley v. Rawlings

Abstract In Marley v Rawlings, the UK Supreme Court had to decide who should inherit the estate of Alfred Rawlings – who had mistakenly signed his wife’s Will (instead of his own). In this article, I will examine the issues of interpretative methodology arising from this case. The Supreme Court resolved the dispute by exercising […]