Fairly-Debatable Rule Law and Legal Definition

Fairly debatable rule as applied in zoning law refers to a doctrine that bars a court from interfering with a zoning decision that is supported by substantial evidence. According to this rule, if the application of a zoning classification to a specific parcel of property is reasonably subject to disagreement, that is, if its application is fairly debatable, then the application of the ordinance by the zoning authority should not be disturbed by the courts. However, it is always a matter for the court to determine whether a zoning authority acted reasonably or fairly or whether capriciously or arbitrarily.

The "fairly debatable" rule concerns the application of a zoning classification to a specific parcel of property. If the zoning ordinance is "subject to controversy or contention" or "open to question or dispute," it is "fairly debatable" and should not be disturbed by the courts. [American Petroleum Equip. & Constr. v. Fancher, 708 So. 2d 129, 131 (Ala. 1997)]

In Insurance law, fairly debatable rule is a test applied in some states which requires an insurer to have a plausible basis for denying a claim to avoid bad-faith liability.