Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Verba Fortius Accipiuntur Contra Proferentem Definition:

Latin: a contract is interpreted against the person who wrote it.

Latin: a principle of construction whereby if words of a contract are ambiguous, of two equally possible meanings, they should be interpreted against the author, drafter or writer of the contract and not against the other party.

Osborn defines this Latin legal expression as:

"Words must be construed against those who use them."

In Cornish, Justice Lindsay wrote of the rule in the context of an insurance case:

"In a case on the line, in a case of real doubt, the policy ought to be construed most strongly against the insurers; they frame the policy and insert the exceptions. But this principle ought only to be applied for the purpose of removing a doubt, not for the purpose of creating a doubt, or magnifying an ambiguity, when the circum­stances of the case raise no real difficulty."

In Stevenson, Canada's Supreme Court opined:

"The rule expressed in the maxim, verba fortius accipiuntur contra proferentem, was pressed upon us in argument, but resort is to be had to this rule only when all other rules of construction fail to enable the Court of construction to ascertain the meaning of a document."


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