The Use of Extrinsic Evidence in the Interpretation of Written Agreements in Alberta


  • Tom F. Mayson



The main objective of the court when attempting to interpret a written agreement is to give effect to the true intention of the parties to that agreement. To do this, the court first looks to the words compiling the agreement to attempt to give a fair and plain meaning to it. However, when the agreement after considering the plain and ordinary meaning of the words therein is still not clear, tire court may feel Justified in using extrinsic evidence, such as the circumstances surrounding the parties when coming to the agreement, to find and give effect to their true intentions. The use of extrinsic evidence to interpret a written agreement must be limited to situations where the intentions of the parties are unclear after looking at the written agreement on its own. Various rules and principles complicate this basic underlying statement. They exist to ensure the court does not simply transpose its "view” of what is fair and reasonable in lieu of contractual interpretation. This article attempts to outline these various rules and principles as they exist in the law of extrinsic evidence when interpreting contracts in Alberta.