Four Corners Rule Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Four Corners Rule, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Four Corners Rule?

(n) Four Corners Rule requires to interpret the meaning and understanding of the provisions contained in a document by considering the overall meaning and intention of that document. In such an interpretation of document, the external factors will not influence the meaning. But the meaning of a sentence or clause is influenced by the document as a whole.

History and Meaning of Four Corners Rule

The Four Corners Rule is a legal principle used in contract law that asserts that the terms of a contract can only be determined by looking at the document itself, without use of outside evidence. The term "four corners" refers to the four corners of a piece of paper, where a contract is traditionally written. The Four Corners Rule ensures that the parties to a contract are bound only by the terms that they have agreed to in writing, and not by any other promises or agreements that may have been made outside of the written contract.

This rule was first described in Nash v. Minnesota Street R. Co., 29 Minn. 276 (1881), and is now widely accepted as a fundamental principle of contract interpretation.

Examples of Four Corners Rule

  1. In a contract dispute, the court relied on the Four Corners Rule to determine that the only relevant terms of the contract were those contained within the written agreement, and not any alleged oral promises made outside of the agreement.

  2. When drafting a contract, it is important to ensure that all necessary terms are included within the "four corners" of the document, to avoid any ambiguity or dispute later on.

  3. A party to a contract cannot be held to a term that is not explicitly stated within the "four corners" of the document, under the Four Corners Rule.

Legal Terms Similar to Four Corners Rule

  1. Parol Evidence Rule - a similar principle that prevents the use of outside evidence to contradict the terms of a written agreement.

  2. Merger Clause - a provision in a contract that states that the written agreement represents the final and complete expression of the parties' intentions, and that no other promises or agreements outside of the written agreement will be binding.

  3. Course of Performance - a principle used in contract law that allows for the interpretation of a contract based on the parties' conduct and performance, even if those actions are not explicitly stated within the written agreement.