CACI 315 Interpretation—Meaning of Ordinary Words

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

315 Interpretation—Meaning of Ordinary Words

You should assume that the parties intended the words in their contract to have their usual and ordinary meaning unless you decide that the parties intended the words to have a special meaning.

Directions for Use

This instruction may be given with CACI No. 314, Interpretation—Disputed Words. See the Directions for Use and Sources and Authority to that instruction for discussion of when contract interpretation may be a proper jury role.

Sources and Authority

Words to Be Understood in Usual Sense. Civil Code section 1644.

“Generally speaking, words in a contract are to be construed according to their plain, ordinary, popular or legal meaning, as the case may be. However, particular expressions may, by trade usage, acquire a different meaning in reference to the subject matter of a contract. If both parties are engaged in that trade, the parties to the contract are deemed to have used them according to their different and peculiar sense as shown by such trade usage and parol evidence is admissible to establish the trade usage even though the words in their ordinary or legal meaning are entirely unambiguous. [Citation.]” (Hayter Trucking Inc. v. Shell Western E & P, Inc. (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 1, 15 [22 Cal.Rptr.2d 229].)

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Contracts, § 768
13 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 140, Contracts, § 140.32 (Matthew Bender)
27 California Legal Forms, Ch. 75, Formation of Contracts and Standard Contractual Provisions, § 75.15 (Matthew Bender)
2 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 21, Asserting a Particular Construction of Contract, 21.20