An latin expression used in roman law. It is mostly used to describe a situation where a law applies to a class of things. An example from the norwegian supreme court: Teh driver of a small boat (30 ft) was convicted for DUI, although the law clearly stated it only applied to ships. The court said that the little boat could be called a ship.

The canon of ejusdem generis (Lat. "of the same type") also is used in common law. Put briefly, it means that a general expression following a list of specific expressions must be construed to refer to something "of the same type" as the things previously listed.

An example of this can be found in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Circuit City v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105 (2001). There, the Court had to construe a provision of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. § 1:
§ 1."Maritime transactions" and "commerce" defined; exceptions to operation of title

[...] " commerce", as herein defined, means commerce among the several States or with foreign nations, or in any Territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, or between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory and any State or foreign nation, or between the District of Columbia and any State or Territory or foreign nation, but nothing herein contained shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.(emphasis added)
Adams was an employee of Circuit City, who sought to sue the company for discrimination. He had signed an adhesive binding arbitration agreement included in the fine print of his initial job application. Circuit City sought to compel arbitration of Adams' discrimination claim.

The question presented to the Supreme Court on certiorari was whether the exemption of "any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" from the application of the FAA applied to Adams, who was not a seaman or railroad employee.

The Court ultimately held, despite clear and unequivocal legislative history to the contrary, that "[t]he wording of § 1 calls for the application of the maxim ejusdem generis, the statutory canon that “[w]here general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words,” 532 U.S., at 115, and, accordingly, that only transportation workers were to be exempt from the provisions of the FAA. However, the dissenting Justices noted that the legislative history, which strongly suggested that Congress had intended to exempt all employees from the reach of the FAA, only made specific reference to "seamen [and] railroad employees" ex abundanti cautela (out of an abundance of caution), to ensure that the Act's most vocal and organised opponents were satisfied:
Like many interpretive canons, however, ejusdem generis is a fallback, and if there are good reasons not to apply it, it is put aside. E. g., Norfolk & Western R. Co. v. Train Dispatchers, 499 U. S. 117, 129 (1991). There are good reasons here. As Adams argued, it is imputing something very odd to the working of the congressional brain to say that Congress took care to bar application of the Act to the class of employment contracts it most obviously had authority to legislate about in 1925, contracts of workers employed by carriers and handlers of commerce, while covering only employees “engaged” in less obvious ways, over whose coverage litigation might be anticipated with uncertain results. It would seem to have made more sense either to cover all coverable employment contracts or to exclude them all. In fact, exclusion might well have been in order based on concern that arbitration could prove expensive or unfavorable to employees, many of whom lack the bargaining power to resist an arbitration clause if their prospective employers insist on one. And excluding all employment contracts from the Act’s enforcement of mandatory arbitration clauses is consistent with Secretary Hoover’s suggestion that the exemption language would respond to any “objection . . . to the inclusion of workers’ contracts.”

* * *

The very fact, as the Court points out, that Congress already had spoken on the subjects of sailors and rail workers and had tailored the legislation to the particular circumstances of the sea and rail carriers may well have been reason for mentioning them specifically. But making the specific references was in that case an act of special care to make sure that the FAA not be construed to modify the existing legislation so exactly aimed; that was no reason at all to limit the general FAA exclusion from applying to employment contracts that had not been targeted with special legislation. Congress did not need to worry especially about the FAA’s effect on legislation that did not exist and was not contemplated. As to workers uncovered by any specific legislation, Congress could write on a clean slate, and what it wrote was a general exclusion for employment contracts within Congress’s power to regulate. The Court has understood this point before, holding that the existence of a special reason for emphasizing specific examples of a statutory class can negate any inference that an otherwise unqualified general phrase was meant to apply only to matters ejusdem generis. On the Court’s own reading of the history, then, the explanation for the catchall is not ejusdem generis; instead, the explanation for the specifics is ex abundanti cautela, abundance of caution, see Fort Stewart Schools v. FLRA, 495 U. S. 641, 646 (1990).
532 U.S., at 138-40 (footnotes omitted)( Souter, J., dissenting)

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