Legal Eagles

Normally, I wouldn’t find time in my day to read a story about a re-discovered Beethoven manuscript, but from the opening paragraph of this story by Alex Ross, with his description of the manuscript disappearing into a wealthy collector’s stash “Citizen Kane style,” I was hooked. Good writing can have that effect, making us willing to listen to something we otherwise might brush off. Because I spend most of my day reading legal prose, I thought to myself, I wish more lawyers would try to write at least a little bit like Alex Ross.
So it was with pleasure that about an hour later I read a recent opinion by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, of the Western District of Washington. The judge took an admirable foray into lively and interesting legal writing with this opening paragraph:
“More than 30 years afer the Eagles first inquired, ‘Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?’ Defendant Ernest Carlson wonders why his insurance carrier won’t come to its senses about the DESPERADO, his 47-foot fishing boat.”
A leak near the boat’s scuppers had caused extensive damage to the deck, and the insurer refused to pay, saying the loss was due to a design defect that did not qualify as a covered latent defect. The case is Liberty International Underwriters v. Carlson, WL 290556 (W.D.Wash. February 6, 2006). Judge Robart granted summary judgment to Mr. Carlson on the limited legal issue of what constitutes a latent defect, but other issues remain for trial.

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