Students are often reprimanded for citing Wikipedia, but now they have the court on their side. The Utah Court of Appeals recently released a decision citing Wikipedia. It was the first time the Court has citied Wikipedia in its decisions. But that does not mean Utah attorneys should use it all the time. A good lawyer in Utah will follow the Court’s example and scrutinize the use of Wikipedia for relevancy.
The decision came in an insurance case where there was a question of whether the term “jet ski” in the homeowner’s policy was ambiguous and if it excluded coverage for all personal watercraft.
The Utah Court of Appeals cited Wikipedia for the common understanding of the use of the term “jet ski.” When debating the variety of personal watercraft, stand-up and sit-down, the Court said, “the subject is well-illuminated in that great repository of contemporary wisdom, Wikipedia.” The Court then went on to cite the Wikipedia definition and discuss the use of Wikipedia, noting that it has been used in judicial opinions over the last decade and has been cited in over four hundred judicial opinions.
However, the Court did not lightly cite Wikipedia, with the citation coming only as the result of much analysis to determine the universally accepted meaning. In fact there was a lengthy footnote about the use of Wikipedia, and all of Judge Voros’s concurring opinion was about why the Court appropriately cited Wikipedia.
Even the prominent Judge Posner has cited Wikipedia, and defended it stating, “Wikipedia is a terrific resource… [p]artly because it [is] so convenient, it often has been updated recently and [it] is very accurate.”
While the Court does not seem to find Wikipedia appropriate for all situations, it says it is tough to beat “where an understanding of the vernacular or colloquial is key to the resolution of a case.”
If you are a lawyer in Utah, you should still beware. Citing Wikipedia at every turn is not the answer, but a well thought out use of Wikipedia may put your case on better footing.
Utah attorneys at Shumway Van & Hansen always offer free consultations and often times can schedule an appointment within 24 hours. For more information please continue to utilize www.shumwayvan.com, call us at (801) 478-8080, or stop by our office in Salt Lake City which is located at 8 East Broadway, Suite 550, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111.