Grammar and the law

Subject: Grammar and the law
From: BurkBrick -at- AOL -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 17:00:53 EDT

Joe Fockler related this anecdote about commas:

>Upon the death of a wealthy man, his will was probated.
>According to the will, the man's wealth was to be divided equally
>among "Mary, Bob and Jim." Due to the placement of the comma,
>Mary received 50% and Bob and Jim split the remaining 50%.
>Mary was considered one "element" and "Bob and Jim" were
>considered one "element."

I've often wondered about how nit-picky grammar points fare in court battles.
One of my clients uses a warning that states "This product may cause
electrocution" (or something of this nature). I change it to "This product
can . . ." because I don't like giving products permission to electrocute
people. However, since "may" is often used in place of "might" and "can,"
would courts forgive the use of the permissive? Is there some legal meaning
of "may" that I'm overlooking?



The moral of this story is "Get a good lawyer," or "when in doubt, use a

Joe Fockler
Interphase Corporation
jfockler -at- iphase -dot- com

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