What constitutes a sandwich? The answer seems simple — some kind of filling between bread. But with that wording, does a hot dog qualify? A Pop-Tart? Even more controversial, how about a burrito? The latter has actually been debated in court. In 2006, a Massachusetts Superior Court declared the burrito not a sandwich, after Panera filed a lawsuit to keep Qdoba from leasing a spot in a mall, claiming its presence violated an agreement that no other sandwich shops be allowed a lease. Finally, a judge determined the burrito is a wrap instead, allowing Qdoba to keep its spot. Case closed, right?

Except in New York. According to their sandwich tax laws, a burrito is, in fact, a sandwich, along with hot dogs, pitas, and bagel sandwiches, including ones that are just served with cream cheese. Legally, the burrito has one identity in Massachusetts, another in New York.

So why all the hullaballoo over the burrito’s place on the sandwich spectrum? This may be an unusual example, but states are often called upon to provide legal definitions that differ from their neighbors. And while the biggest burrito concern you may have is whether to get chicken or beef, other differing legal definitions can affect you in serious ways.

One prominent example: determining fault in auto accidents. Arizona is a pure comparative fault state, which means liability can be split in an accident. For instance, someone could be held responsible for 70% of the damages, and another person only 30%. Therefore, even if you’re 70% at fault, you can still potentially receive damages for the 30% that was the other driver’s responsibility, and vice versa.  Similarly, what is considered a valid last will differs. In Arizona, we honor holographic wills — handwritten wills with no witnesses — provided they have certain components. Conversely, “Burritos-Are-Not-Sandwiches” Massachusetts does not allow holographic wills. Thus, the legal definition of a will is not set in stone, but relative to where you are.

Luckily, it’s not your job to keep track of all this. It’s ours. The attorneys at Bellah Perez have been serving Arizona for decades, and know the idiosyncrasies of our state’s legal definitions. Whether it’s in estate planning, real estate, bankruptcy, personal injury, debt relief, or any of our other practice areas, we’ll make sure all definitions are clear, understandable, and work to your advantage. While we don’t have an opinion on the sandwich-burrito debate, we do have your best interests at heart. Call us today: (602) 252-9937.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.