Bloomberg Law announced a new research feature, Points of Law, a little over a week ago. I’ve been playing around with it using the ATV injury problem I created for teaching online legal research concepts. In summary, An ATV rider was injured while riding on someone else’s private property without permission. The problem called for the researcher to identify relevant cases where assumption of risk was a viable defense and collect them for later analysis. The jurisdiction is New York.
Let me explain a little about Points of Law before I dive into my experience with it. Bloomberg’s press release describes the feature:
Points of Law offers a more efficient way to conduct case law research. Through the application of machine learning to Bloomberg Law’s database of 13 million court opinions, Points of Law highlights language critical to the court’s holding, links this language to governing statements of law and relevant on-point case law.
Bloomberg Law provides context – connecting keyword search results to governing statements of law – and unparalleled breadth of coverage, generating one million Points of Law from our state and federal court opinion database.
I found the press release accurate. I used one of the sample searches I set up for the research problem, <all-terrain vehicle and assumption of risk>. The case law I expected to see in the list of results was there. Some of the cases, not all, had a Points of Law icon on the right side of the text. Clicking that highlights text that the AI in the database considers to be significant. My search highlighted what I would describe as a combination of black letter law on a keyword related topic or significant points on how the courts treat that topic. The focus here was on assumption of risk, obviously, as and all-terrain vehicle is not a legal concept.
Here are some example results extracted from Marcano v. City of New York, 296 A.D.2d 43, 743 N.Y.S.2d 456 (App Div, 1st Dept 2002):
Generally, the issue of assumption of risk is a question of fact for the jury.” (Lamey v Foley, 188 AD2d 157, 163-164 .)
“The policy underlying this tort rule is intended to facilitate free and vigorous participation in athletic activities.” (Benitez v New York City Bd. of Educ., 73 NY2d 650, 657 .) [Discussing how assumption of the risk in sports is handled by the courts. – MG]
Because of the factual nature of the inquiry, whether a danger is open and obvious is most often a jury question * * *.”
What I found most interesting about using Points of Law is how viewing multiple extracts informed me about assumption of risk without requiring a lot of lengthy analysis. Now, not all cases in the search results were useful in my context where an ATV rider was injured. At the same time, a researcher will find what they need to know conceptually about assumption of the risk as treated by the New York Courts. I assume that applies to other legal doctrines as well.
Another feature worth mentioning is that clicking on the highlighted phrase will open a side window that cites other cases expressing the same point of law (up to 10). There is also a button that shows a citation map of the Point:
Another button shows a list of opinions that expressed related concepts along with the Point text:
All in all, I think this is a nifty feature that researchers and litigators will actually use. I wonder if it will integrate with any of the current general search products on the market, as in “Hey Google, find me cases in New York State that discuss assumption of risk in the context of recreational activities.” If we now think that first year law students take the lazy route in legal research based on their Google use, just wait for the future to show up.
In the Not Everything is Perfect category, one case, Bierach v. Nichols, 248 A.D.2d 916, 669 N.Y.S.2d 988 (App Div, 3d Dept 1998), had one Point of Law listed but not highlighted in the text. It was short enough that I was able to guess what was the likely text that would have been highlighted. Oh well. –Mark