Understanding the Fine Print: 5 Common Boilerplate Provisions

As consumers, we are all familiar with the boilerplate language at the end of a standard form contract. Whether it is a cell phone agreement, real estate contract, or a car loan document, all form contracts include boilerplate fine print. Although consumers skim over these provisions, paying little attention to their significance, the fine print boilerplate provisions are actually quite important. It is important that consumers understand the legal significance of boilerplate provisions, so that they can understand their legal rights and obligations.

The following is a list of 5 common boilerplate provisions and their legal significance:

  1. Choice of law. Most contracts include a provision that stipulates which laws will apply in the event that there is a dispute between the parties. Often times, state law will dictate that a contract should be determined according to the laws of the place where it was performed or executed, but given our reliance on electronic communications and document execution, it is often unclear where a contract was executed or where it is performed. Accordingly, the boilerplate language will stipulate which state or country’s law will be used to interpret the contract.

  2. Jurisdiction. This boilerplate provision will stipulate the jurisdiction in which a lawsuit may be brought in the event that a dispute arises.

  3. Venue. The fine print provision regarding venue governs which courts have the authority to hear and decide any business disputes regarding the contract. For instance, just because a contract dispute is to be governed according to Illinois law, the case may not necessarily be heard in an Illinois court depending on the circumstances of the contract and the dispute. The venue boilerplate language makes clear which state or federal court(s) have the authority to hear any disputes regarding the contract.

  4. Attorney fee clauses. In some states, boilerplate provisions allowing for unilateral attorneys are allowed. Other states apply reciprocity for unilateral attorney fee provisions so that if one party is allowed to recover attorney fees in a successful claim, the other party is allowed to recover attorney fees, as well. Although attorney fee provisions are relatively common boilerplate language, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to attorney fee provisions.

  5. Arbitration. Many form contracts include arbitration clauses that require parties to submit to arbitration in the event of a dispute. Arbitration clauses can become particularly complex when claims are brought as part of a class action and the boilerplate language provides that the parties must submit to arbitration. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided in the landmark decision AT& Mobility v. Concepcion that the terms of an arbitration provision cannot be invalidated as unconscionable because the provision contained a class action waiver. The extent to which the AT&T Mobility decision is applicable is still in flux, however, so it is advisable to seek legal counsel regarding the practical effects of a particular arbitration provision if you have any doubts.

The Chicago consumer protection attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle focus on representing clients in a wide variety of business law disputes, including disputes regarding the application of consumer contracts and boilerplate fine print language. Contact our office at 833-306-4933 or 630-333-0333 to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable Chicago and Oak Brook area consumer protection and commercial litigation attorneys.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"I was referred to Peter Lubin from someone in the car business to handle a law suit. From the moment I made the appointment Peter and his staff were outstanding. This wasn't an easy case, most lawyers had turned me down. However, Peter took the time to meet with me and review everything. He took on the case, and constantly communicated with me about updates and case information. We beat this non-compete agreement case in record time. I would use him again and recommend him to my closest family and friends. 5 stars is not enough to thank him for his service." Sebastian R.
★★★★★
"I worked on two occasions with Peter Lubin and his staff. They took their time with me and discussed each and every item in detail. The group makes you feel like you are part of the family and not just another hourly charge. I recommend Peter to anyone who asks me for a referral. If you are looking for a top notch attorney at a reasonable rate, look no further than Lubin Austermuehle." Kurt A.
★★★★★
"Excellent law firm. My case was a complicated arbitration dispute from another state. Was handled with utmost professionalism and decency. Mr. Peter Lubin was able to successfully resolve the case on my behalf and got me a very favorable settlement. Would recommend to anyone looking for a serious law firm. Great staff and great lawyers!" Albey L.
★★★★★
"I have known Peter Lubin for over 30 years. He has represented me on occasion with sound legal advice. He is a shrewd and tough negotiator leading to positive outcomes and averting prolonged legal hassles in court. He comes from a family with a legal pedigree and deep roots in Chicago's top legal community. You want him on your case. You need him on your opponents case. He won't stop fighting until he wins." Christopher G.