Tipsy coachman rule

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The tipsy coachman rule is a court doctrine that requires an appellate court to uphold a lower court judgment on any reason possible, even if the reason stated by the lower court was wrong. The party that is defending a judgment may raise new arguments not raised in the court below, but the party that is attempting to overturn a judgment may not raise new arguments. This principle is followed universally, but this name is only used in Georgia and Florida.

In 1879 the Georgia Supreme Court quoted Goldsmith's poem Retaliation in announcing this doctrine:

"The pupil of impulse, it forc'd him along, His conduct still right, with his argument wrong; Still aiming at honor, yet fearing to roam, The coachman was tipsy, the chariot drove home."

Lee v. Porter, 63 Ga. 345, 346 (1879). That court noted, "It not infrequently happens that a judgment is affirmed upon a theory of the case which did not occur to the court that rendered it, or which did occur and was expressly repudiated. The human mind is so constituted that in many instances it finds the truth when wholly unable to find the way that leads to it." Id.

The Florida Supreme Court adopted this doctrine in Carraway v. Armour & Co., 156 So. 2d 494 (Fla. 1963).