Ejusdem or Eiusdem Generis Legal Definition:

Of the same kind or nature.

A rule of interpretation that where a class of things is followed by general wording that is not itself expansive, the general wording is usually restricted things of the same type as the listed items.

 

The rule is used to interpret otherwise unclear statutes, contracts and estate documents such as trusts or wills.

In a 1925 Ontario decision, cited as Re Ollman 57 O.L.R. 340, the Court adopted these words:

"This rule, which is sometimes called Lord Tenterden's rule, is thus stated ...  where a statute, or other document; enumerates several classes of persons or things, and immediately following and classed with such enumeration the clause embraces 'other' persons or things-the word 'other' will generally be read as 'other such like,' so that the persons or things therein comprised may be read as ejusdem generis with, and not of a quality superior to, or different from, those specifically enumerated.

 

"The principle or this rule as regards statutes was explained ... in Ibex v. Wallis (1793), 5 T.R. 375, 379, wherein he said that if the legislature had meant the general words to be applied without restriction it would have used only one compendious word.

"But this rule is not invariably followed, and it seems to be now considered that it has little if any value in statutes conferring discretionary powers on the judiciary or such like public functionaries.

"The object of the statute should be carefully considered in order to determine whether a restrictive meaning should be given or one which is unrestrictedly comprehensive; and, where the latter seems best to carry out the object of the statute, it should be adopted."

In Watt v Trail, a New Brunswick case, (2000) 190 DLR 4th 439, Justice Rice of the Court of Appeal wrote of ejusdem generis:

"Where specific words are followed by a general expression, the general expression is limited to the shared characteristics of the specific words, even though the general expression may ordinarily have a much broader meaning. To effectively use this rule of statutory interpretation, the shared characteristics of the specific words should be identified as precisely as possible.

 

"However, the rule is but a means to ascertain the intention of the legislature and should be used prudently and with caution since it is not always a sure indication of the legislature's intention and other principles of interpretation may apply. As well, the rule may not have any application in certain cases."

In London Drugs v Truscan Realty 3 RPR 2d 60 (1988), the British Columbia Supreme Court noted that "the maxim ejusdem generis is only an illustration of the broader noscitur a sociis".

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