Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Ad Proximum Antecedens Fiat Relatio Nisi Impediatur Sententia Definition:

Latin: relative words must ordinarily be referred to the last antecedent, the last antecedent being the last word which can be made an antecedent so as to give a meaning.
A rule of interpretation of construction of statutes or contracts.

In Re Hinton Avenue, Justice Riddell of the Ontario Court of Appeal used these words:

"There is no doubt of the general truth of the maxim, ad proximum antecedens fiat relatio, nisi impediatur sententia; it is a rule both of grammar and of law that relative words must ordinarily be referred to the last antecedent, the last antecedent being the last word which can be made an antecedent so as to give a meaning.

"But, although this general proposition is true in strict grammatical construction, yet there are numerous examples in the best writers to show that the context often requires a deviation from the rule, and that the relative may refer to nouns which go before the last antecedent.

"So, in interpreting any written instrument-contract, deed, will, statute-the whole instrument being examined, it often happens that not the last possible antecedent but a preceding word is taken as the word to which a relative is referred."

Broom gave ad proximum antecedens fiat relatio, nisi impediatur sententia significant attention, dedicating an entire heading to a maxim of law which is rarely evoked by the modern judiciary. His rendering of the maxim:

"Relative words refer to the next antecedent, unless by such construction the meaning of the sentence would be impaired."

REFERENCES:

  • Broom, Herbert, A Selection of Legal Maxims, 10th Ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939), page 461-461.
  • Re Hinton Avenue, Ottawa, 54 DLR 115 (1920)

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