Principles of Contract Interpretation
Contract interpretation begins with the plain language of the
contract. Gould, Inc. v. United States, 935 F.2d 1271, 1274
(Fed. Cir. 1991); accord Hol-Gar Mfg. Corp. v. United
States, 169 Ct. Cl. 384, 390 (1965). A court should first
employ a "plain meaning" analysis in any contract dispute.
Aleman Food Services, Inc. v. United States, 994 F.2d 819,
822 (Fed. Cir. 1993).|
The intention of the parties to a contract controls its
interpretation. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. United
States, 444 F.2d 547, 551 (Ct. Cl. 1971). In construing the
terms of a contract, however, the parties' intent must be gathered
from the instrument as a whole in an attempt to glean the meaning
of terms within the contract's intended context. Kenneth Reed
Constr. Corp. v. United States, 475 F.2d 583, 586 (Ct. Cl.
1973); Tilley Constructors v. United States, 15 Cl. Ct. 559,
562 (1988). Contract interpretation requires examination first of
the four corners of the written instrument to determine the intent
of the parties. Hol-Gar Mfg. Corp. v. United States, 351
F.2d 972 (Ct. Cl. 1965). An interpretation will be rejected if it
leaves portions of the contract language useless, inexplicable,
inoperative, meaningless, or superfluous. Ball State Univ. v.
United States, 488 F.2d 1014 (Ct. Cl. 1973); Blake Constr.
Co. Inc. v. United States, 987 F.2d 743, 746-47 (Fed. Cir.
[updated September 2013;
cited in USAM 4-4.420]