California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

315. Interpretation—Meaning of Ordinary Words

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315.Interpretation—Meaning of Ordinary Words
You should assume that the parties intended the words in their contract
to have their usual and ordinary meaning unless you decide that the
parties intended the words to have a special meaning.
New September 2003; Revised December 2014
Directions for Use
This instruction may be given with CACI No. 314, Interpretation—Disputed Words.
See the Directions for Use and Sources and Authority to that instruction for
discussion of when contract interpretation may be a proper jury role.
Sources and Authority
• Words to Be Understood in Usual Sense. Civil Code section 1644.
• “Generally speaking, words in a contract are to be construed according to their
plain, ordinary, popular or legal meaning, as the case may be. However,
particular expressions may, by trade usage, acquire a different meaning in
reference to the subject matter of a contract. If both parties are engaged in that
trade, the parties to the contract are deemed to have used them according to
their different and peculiar sense as shown by such trade usage and parol
evidence is admissible to establish the trade usage even though the words in
their ordinary or legal meaning are entirely unambiguous. [Citation.]” (Hayter
Trucking Inc. v. Shell Western E & P, Inc. (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 1, 15 [22
Cal.Rptr.2d 229].)
Secondary Sources
1 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Contracts, § 745
13 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 140, Contracts, § 140.32
(Matthew Bender)
27 California Legal Forms, Ch. 75, Formation of Contracts and Standard
Contractual Provisions, § 75.15 (Matthew Bender)
2 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 21, Asserting
a Particular Construction of Contract, 21.20
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