The offence she was alleged to have committed was a breach of a West Jefferson village parking ordinance , which stated it was illegal to park " any motor vehicle camper, trailer , farm implement and/or non-motorised vehicle " on a street for more than 24 hours.
All bases covered ?. Well may be not.
Her defence was that her car wasn't a " motor vehicle camper ". Infact it appears that motor vehicles were not included in the list and therefore by deduction were exempt from the one day restriction.The municipal office were quick to point out that the grammatical error was inadvertant , and that it was obvious to everyone what the list set out to include.
At the bench trial the case went against her. The judge declared that " anyone reading the ordinance would recognise the fact that a comma was clearly missing , and that motor vehicles were therefore included in the list......along with campers "
But undeterred she appealed to the Twelfth Appellate District of Ohio. Here, the three higher ranked judges held that there was ambiguity in the ordinance as it was written. Consequently , the claim for the $120 fine was dismissed. According to grammer rules , items in a series must be separated by commas. The judges concluded that reading "motor vehicle camper " as one item did not produce an absurd result. If the village desired a different reading ( one to distiguish motor vehicles from campers ) then a comma should have been inserted.
Indeed in English law a car parking company can also be hoisted on the horns of its own petard through bad or inadequate wording on its signage. Ambiguity may well invoke the contra proferentem rule , which will often come to the aid of the weaker put-upon party.