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Ejusdem generis

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General Words
Last updated: 05-Jun-2015

Thames and Mersey Marine Insurance Co v Hamilton, Fraser & Co (1887) 12 App Cas 484, per Lord Halsbury at p 490:

Two rules of construction now firmly established as part of our law may be considered as limiting those words. One is that words however general may be limited with respect to the subject-matter in relation to which they are used the other is that general words may be restricted to the same genus as the specific words that precede them.

… where the same words have for many years received a judicial construction it is not unreasonable to suppose that parties have contracted upon the belief that their words will be understood in what I will call the accepted sense.

Margetson v Glynn [1892]1 QB 337 per Fry LJ, at p 337:

When the court in dealing with a contract or document of any kind finds that difficulty, it always, so far as I know, follows this principle, that the general words must be limited so that they shall be consistent with and shall not defeat the main object of the contracting parties.

Glynn v Margetson [1893]  AC 351 per Herschell LC:

Where general words are used which are obviously intended to be applicable, so far as they are applicable, to the circumstances of the particular contract, which particular contract is to be embodied in or introduced into that printed form, I think you are justified in looking at the main object and intent of the contract and in limiting the general words used, having in view that object and intent. Therefore, it seems to me that the construction contended for would be an unreasonable one, and there is no difficulty in construing this clause to apply to a liberty in the performance of the stipulated voyage to call at a particular port or ports in the course of the voyage.


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