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Part III Understanding Words, 7 Principle 7: Unnatural Meanings

From: Principles of Contractual Interpretation (2nd Edition)

Richard Calnan

From: Oxford Legal Research Library (http://olrl.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 15 April 2024

Exemption from liability — Exclusion or limit of liability — Insurance

This chapter discusses the circumstances in which the courts do not give words their natural meaning. Very occasionally, it is clear that the parties cannot objectively have intended words they have used to have their ordinary meaning. If so, they are given the meaning which the parties must objectively have intended. The more unreasonable the result, the more unlikely it is that the parties can have intended it. This is a very controversial principle and different judges take a more—or less—expansive view of it. The chapter discusses the different views, and why they are held. It analyses the recent cases to establish where the law is at the moment. It looks at particular types of case where the courts have been more willing to twist the meaning of words. These include exclusion and limitation clauses, clauses limiting liability for negligence, and termination for minor breach. It discusses recent cases in which the courts have twisted the meaning of words in contracts, and also those where the courts have declined to do so.

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