We've posted about civility several times before, but today the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals gives us another reason.
An opinion issued today by the court in Bennett v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., here, begins with the following:
"There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument 'ridiculous[.]'"
The case involved injuries sustained by Bennett after she was struck by a vehicle driven by one of State Farm's insureds. The impact threw her onto the hood of the vehicle where she sustained further injuries. Bennett sought a declaration of coverage in court. The question addressed by the appellate court was whether Bennett was an "occupant" of the vehicle as that term is defined in the policy.
In its brief, State Farm called Bennett's arguments in favor of coverage "ridiculous."
The Sixth Circuit disagreed, and Bennett won her appeal.
Responding to State Farm's characterization of Bennett's argument, the court stated that an opponent's argument should not be called ridiculous for the following reasons:
"civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions." (internal citation omitted).
And, according to the court: "But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct."
So, the lesson from the Sixth Circuit? Hyperbole will likely get you nowhere, except to possibly damage your credibility with the court -- better to argue the law and facts and let the court come to its own conclusion. Be civil at all times.