Advice for Wording Contracts
According to State Farm’s own wordsmithing, the woman is an “occupant” if she’s “on” the car, which she was, or “alighting from” the car, which I assume she did momentarily. No dictionary, legal or otherwise, defines "occupying" or “occupant” that way, but under the law, contracting parties may define any word to mean anything. (The legal profession's contract drafting guru, Ken Adams, tells me he sees "endless dispute" over words like "vehicle" and "occurrence.") The court concluded, “Per the policy’s terms, therefore, [she] was an ‘occupant’ of the vehicle and thus entitled to coverage for those additional injuries.” Sometimes we lawyers get so obsessed with defining words to mean whatever we want them to mean, we forget just to use the correct word and leave it alone. Like “occupying.”
As State Farm’s bonfire case faded to a pilot light, their lawyer argued that, whether the woman was an “occupant” of the Fusion really depended on whether she had an “intrinsic relationship” with the car. (I'm still trying to picture an example of that, but I can't get it to hold still long enough.) After seeming to insinuate that something illicit took place between the woman and the car, the lawyer had the temerity to call the woman's side of the case “ridiculous.” Even though we know better, sometimes we lawyers just can’t control ourselves. But the judges loved the word; they used it to open their opinion: “There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument ‘ridiculous' . . . . But here the biggest reason is: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.”
Not even WordRake can help this lawyer. My question is, What happened to the dog?