Seventh Circuit Cautions Use Of "Reinsurance-ese" Language

Seventh Circuit Cautions Use Of "Reinsurance-ese" Language

If you've ever felt lost in the world of reinsurance terms and jargon, well, you are not alone - a panel of federal circuit judges recently admitted how difficult it can be to translate "reinsurance-ese" language.

In issuing an opinion on Jan. 16 in the reinsurance case titled Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Co., v. Reinsurance Results Inc., (No. 07-1823, 7th Cir.; 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 882), the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel commended the attorneys on their excellent oral arguments but noted that their briefs were difficult to understand because of the density of the reinsurance jargon used.

“There is nothing wrong with a specialized vocabulary — for use by specialists.  Federal  district and circuit judges, however, with the partial exception of the judges of the court of appeals for the Federal Circuit (which is semi-specialized), are generalists.  We hear very few cases involving reinsurance, and cannot possibly achieve expertise in reinsurance practices except by the happenstance of having practiced in that area before becoming a judge, as none of us has.  Lawyers should understand the judges’ limited knowledge of specialized fields and choose their vocabulary accordingly.  Every esoteric term used by the reinsurance industry has a counterpart in ordinary English, as we hope this opinion has demonstrated.  The able lawyers who briefed and argued this case could have saved us some work and presented their positions more effectively had they done the translations from reinsurancese into everyday English themselves,” the panel said.

The panel consisted of Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, who authored the opinion, and Circuit Judges Ilana Diamond Rovner and Ann Claire Williams.