The importance of a comma in an ordinance (and a contract). How a court case was won over a missing comma(,)

Read the following municipal ordinance prohibiting “any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle” from daylong parking.

If you’re a truck owner (motor vehicle), does this ordinance apply to you? The argument here is that the ordinance applies to “motor vehicle campers” and not motor vehicles. See the difference? This ordinance would have applied to a motor vehicle, if the law had a comma where it should have.

This is exactly what happened to an Ohio woman. She ended up having a parking citation tossed by an appeals court, all because she noticed there was a comma missing in the local law. Read more about it here.

When working with your attorney, both the client and the attorney should read the document draft with a fine tooth comb to avoid technical and pivotal issues like this.  Avoid ambiguity and as you read your document, look for grammatical problems which could lead to vague provisions or provisions with more than one interpretation opportunity.  Read another example where a single comma cost a party one million dollars.


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