Recent Developments in Interpretation of Contracts: A Picture of Consistency and Clarity?

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Isabel Hitching QC

April 2020

A paper presented to the Society of Construction Law at a meeting in Birmingham on 19th June 2019 and updated to 17 April 2020

In this paper the author poses the following questions: How are the courts in this jurisdiction interpreting contracts? Is there sufficient certainty as to their approach to give confidence to either those advising on present disputes or those considering an English choice of law clause in future contracts? The paper explores the principles of interpretation and focuses on two recent cases, Triple Point Technology Inc v PTT Public Co Ltd and Teesside Gas Transportation Ltd v Cats North Sea Ltd, to understand how the courts are approaching the exercise of interpretation in the TCC field. The author concludes that English contract law is clear and consistent.  Each case is fact specific but how those facts are to be assessed is not in doubt. Parties are safe to adopt English law clauses knowing that the court or arbitrator will be applying clear and unchanging principles in interpreting them.  

Introduction – The scope of interpretation – The principles to be applied – An exploration of the principles – Two general points – Factors (1) to (3) – Factor (4) – Factor (5) – Applying the principles – Two recent cases in the TCC field – Triple Point – Teesside – Conclusion

The author: Isabel Hitching QC is a barrister practising from Crown Office Chambers and a former lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford.

Text: 16 pages

Paper number: 
April 2020, printed and online, 1.1MB

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