Court Relies on Eighth-Grade Math Book to Decide Case

eighth grade math book resolves complex case

Eighth-grade math book held to be controlling authority by a federal appellate court.

You gotta love an opinion that begins:

In this appeal we are asked to determine whether “.82″ is the equivalent of “82%.” Having successfully completed grammar school, we are able to answer the question in the affirmative.

An unsuccessful bidder for an offshore oil and gas lease brought suit against the Secretary of the Interior for awarding the contract to a competitor. The plaintiff offered a royalty of “73.45689%” in its bid. A competitor offered a royalty bid of “.82165.” The Secretary construed the competitor’s bid as one for 82.165 percent, and awarded the contract to it based on it being the higher bid.

The plaintiff asserted the Secretary acted arbitrarily and capriciously in construing .82165 to be 82.165 percent. The trial court agreed and entered judgment for the plaintiff.

The U.S. Court of Appearls for the Fifth Circuit reversed, relying on as its primary source of authority an eighth-grade math book called “Growth in Arithmetic,” which the Court said asked and answered the pertinent question: “Do you know how to change a per cent to a decimal?”

Oil & Gas Futures, Inc. of Tex. v. Andrus, 610 F.2d 287, 287–88 (5th Cir. 1980). Thanks to Frank Zotter.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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