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Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

5. Content of the contract and principles of interpretation  

Robert Merkin, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas on the law curriculum. This chapter explores how the terms of the parties’ agreement (that is, the contractual promise to be performed) are identified and how the courts interpret the meaning of those terms. It considers the status of statements made prior to the conclusion of the contract (as terms or representations) and why this matters. The parol evidence rule applies where the contract is written and provides that the writing represents the entire contract. This definition is flawed, however, because it allows the rule to be sidestepped by defining the contract as partly written and partly oral. Alternatively, an oral term can take effect as a collateral contract, which is separate to any written contract to which the parol evidence rule applies. The effect of the parol evidence rules can be achieved by incorporating an entire agreement clause. This chapter also considers the effect and impact of a no oral modification clause (or NOM). This chapter examines methods of achieving incorporation of terms such as signature, reasonable notice (or a higher standard of notice if the term is onerous or unusual), consistent course of dealing and common knowledge of the parties. In addition to the express terms, there may be terms implied by custom, by courts or by statute. Finally, the chapter considers the principles on which contracts are interpreted including the relevance, or otherwise, of pre-contractual negotiations.

Chapter

Cover Poole's Textbook on Contract Law

5. Content of the contract and principles of interpretation  

Robert Merkin KC, Séverine Saintier, and Jill Poole

Course-focused and comprehensive, Poole’s Textbook on Contract Law provides an accessible overview of the key areas of the law curriculum. This chapter explores how the terms of the parties’ agreement (that is, the contractual promise to be performed) are identified and how the courts interpret the meaning of those terms. It considers the status of statements made prior to the conclusion of the contract (as terms or representations) and why this matters. The parol evidence rule applies where the contract is written and provides that the writing represents the entire contract. This definition is flawed, however, because it allows the rule to be sidestepped by defining the contract as partly written and partly oral. Alternatively, an oral term can take effect as a collateral contract, which is separate to any written contract to which the parol evidence rule applies. The effect of the parol evidence rules can be achieved by incorporating an entire agreement clause. This chapter also considers the effect and impact of a no oral modification clause (or NOM). This chapter examines methods of achieving incorporation of terms such as signature, reasonable notice (or a higher standard of notice if the term is onerous or unusual), consistent course of dealing and common knowledge of the parties. In addition to the express terms, there may be terms implied by custom, by courts or by statute. Finally, the chapter considers the principles on which contracts are interpreted including the relevance, or otherwise, of pre-contractual negotiations.