Three Sentences In Appellate Brief Did Not Make Sufficient Argument

The Court of Civil Appeals refused to consider an argument that was supported by only three short sentences that cited no legal authority. That argument was inadequate under Rule 28 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure and was effectively waived. Nance v. Southerland, No. 2080746 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 29, 2010).

This was an insurance-coverage dispute. The plaintiffs appealed from a summary judgment for the insurer. They contended, among other things, that their agent had failed to fully explain certain aspects of their coverage. The plaintiffs’ entire appellate “argument” on this point, however — the irony quotes are the court’s — consisted of “one sentence in their statement of facts” reciting their expert’s opinion that the agent “should have explained” the coverage when they bought it; and “two clauses in the argument portion of their brief stating, respectively, that [the agent] negligently and recklessly failed” to do so. The plaintiffs did not

cite a single Alabama case or statute recognizing the duty of an insurance agent to advise an applicant of the scope of rejected coverage or any case that would indicate that such a duty exists under circumstances similar to those existing in this case.

The appellate court deemed this insufficient argument and refused to consider the issue it raised. Under appellate Rule 28, “a party has a duty to cite appropriate legal authority to demonstrate that the trial court erred.” Furthermore:

[I]t is not the function of [an appellate court] to do a party’s legal research or to make and address legal arguments for a party based on undelineated general propositions not supported by sufficient authority or argument. When the appellant fails to cite any legal authority in support of an argument, this court will consider that argument waived as if it had not been made at all.

(Citations omitted) (interpolation in original). The court passed on to other questions, ultimately affirming the summary judgment.