Usage

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Usage

A reasonable and legal practice in a particular location, or among persons in a specific business or trade, that is either known to the individuals involved or is well established, general, and uniform to such an extent that a presumption may properly be made that the parties acted with reference to it in their transactions.

The term usage refers to a uniform practice or course of conduct followed in certain lines of business or professions that is relied upon by the parties to a contractual transaction. A court will apply the usage of a business when it determines that doing so is necessary to resolve a contractual dispute. Ignoring usage may result in the misreading of a document and the intent of the parties who signed it.

The law has developed different forms of usage. Local usage refers to a practice or method of dealing regularly observed in a particular place. Under certain circumstances it may be considered by a court when interpreting a document. General usage is a practice that prevails generally throughout the country, or is followed generally by a given profession or trade, and is not local in its nature or observance.

A trade usage is the prevailing and accepted custom within a particular trade or industry and is not tied to a geographic location. The law assumes that merchants are aware of the usage of their trade. Trade Usage supplements, qualifies, and imparts particular meaning to the terms of an agreement for the purpose of their interpretation.

The term custom and usage is commonly used in Commercial Law, but "custom" and "usage" can be distinguished. A usage is a repetition of acts whereas custom is the law or general rule that arises from such repetition. A usage may exist without a custom, but a custom cannot arise without a usage accompanying it or preceding it. Usage derives its authority from the assent of the parties to a transaction and is applicable only to consensual arrangements. Custom derives its authority from its adoption into the law and is binding regardless of any acts of assent by the parties. In modern law, however, the two principles are often merged into one by the courts.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

custom

or

usage

a residual source of law.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

USAGE. Long and uniform practice. In its most extensive meaning this term includes custom and prescription, though it differs from them in a narrower sense, it is applied to the habits, modes, and course of dealing which are observed in trade generally, as to all mercantile transactions, or to some particular branches of trade.
     2. Usage of trade does not require to be immemorial to establish it; if it be known, certain, uniform, reasonable, and not contrary to law, it is sufficient. But evidence of a few instances that such a thing has been done does not establish a usage. 3 Watts, 178; 3 Wash. C. C. R. 150; 1 Gallis. 443; 5 Binn. 287; 9 Pick. 426; 4 B. & Ald. 210; 7 Pet. 1; 2 Wash. C. C. R. 7.
     3. The usages of trade afford ground upon which a proper construction may be given to contracts. By their aid the indeterminate intention of parties and the nature and extent of their contracts arising from mere implications or presumptions, and act of an equivocal character may be ascertained; and the meaning of words and doubtful expressions may become known. 2 Mete. 65; 2 Sumn. 569; 2 G. & J. 136; 13 Pick. 182; Story on Ag. Sec. 77; 2 Kent, Com. 662, 3d ed.; 5 Wheat. 326; 2 Car. & P. 525; 3 B. & Ald. 728; Park. on Ins. 30; 1 Marsh. Ins. 186, n. 20; 1 Caines, 45 Gilp. 356, 486; 1 Edw. Ch. R. 146; 1 N. & M. 519; 15 Mass. 433; 1 Rill, R. 270; Wright, R. 573; Pet. C. C. R. 230; 5 Hamm. 436 6 Pet. 715; 2 Pet. 148; 6 Porter, 123 1 Hall, 612; 9 Mass. 155; 9 Wheat. 582 11 Wheat. 430; 1 Pet. 25, 89.
     4. Courts will not readily adopt these usages, because they are not unfrequently founded in mistake. 2 Sumn. 377. See 3 Chitt. Pr. 55; Story, Confl. of Laws, Sec. 270; 1 Dall. 178; Vaugh. 169, 383; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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