Strict Construction and Interpretation

“Strict construction” is a method of interpreting language in a legal document. It can also apply to statutes.  Strict construction “presumes nothing that is not expressed.” Robinson v. Hooker, 323 S.W.3d 418, 423 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010). It means that the language “shall not be
extended by implication beyond the literal meaning of the terms employed.” Board v. Eurostyle, Inc., 998 S.W.2d 810, 813-14 (Mo. App. S.D. 1999). It demands an “interpretation according to the narrowest, most literal meaning of the words without regard for context and other permissible meanings.” BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (11th Ed.), 980(“strict interpretation”).

In Missouri, many different situations call for strict construction. Krombach v. Mayflower Ins. Co., Ltd., 827 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Mo. 1992) (insurance exceptions and exemptions strictly construed); Richardson v. State Hwy. & Transp. Com’n, 863 S.W.2d 876, 882 (Mo. 1993) (sovereign immunity waivers strictly construed); Capital Group, Inc. v. Collier, 365 S.W.3d 644, 648 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012) (personal guaranty agreements strictly construed); Peters v. Treasurer of Missouri, 404 S.W.3d 322, 324 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012) (workers’ compensation law strictly construed); State v. Hobokin, 768 S.W.2d 76, 77 (Mo. 1989) (criminal statutes strictly construed against the State).

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