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Case of first impression: Definition, Example and Related Terms

What is a Case of first impression ?

A 'case of first impression' is a legal term that refers to a case or situation that courts in a particular jurisdiction haven't dealt with before. Think of it as 'uncharted territory' in legal scenarios. In the world of contracts, it usually happens when a new or unique issue pops up, specifically pertaining to how a contract is interpreted or enforced. These situations are special because they challenge legal professionals to think outside of the box and come up with new interpretations of the law.

Here's an interesting fact: When a court handles a 'case of first impression,' it often sets a precedent, meaning it makes a decision that will be considered in other similar future cases. This is why these cases can sometimes bring big changes in how laws are understood and applied.


  • Situation Explanation
    Inclusivity in terms of service agreement A social media company decides to include 'hate speech against extraterrestrial beings' as a violation in their terms of service, despite no user encountering an extraterrestrial being. A user is later penalized for violating this rule. This presents a new, novel legal issue for the court.
    Unforeseen product failure A company sells refrigerators that, due to an unforeseen design defect, explode when used on hot summer days. One explodes and causes harm - the contract didn't include a term for such a unique situation. The court must now interpret and enforce terms for this situation.
    Contract with an AI A company creates an Artificial Intelligence that is autonomous enough to enter a contract. An individual signs a contract with it, leading to a case of first impression: How does the law interpret a contract between humans and AI?