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Full-Text Articles in Law

Obsolescence: The Intractable Production Problem In Contract Law, Robert E. Scott, Alan Schwartz Jan 2021

Obsolescence: The Intractable Production Problem In Contract Law, Robert E. Scott, Alan Schwartz

Faculty Scholarship

Contract law has long suffered from an institutional problem: Which legal institution can best create an efficient law for commercial contracts that can overcome "obsolescence” – the persistence of rules that only solve yesterday’s contracting problems? Until the early 20th century, contract law was largely created by common law courts. The law's default rules were efficient when created and courts updated them as commerce changed. But there were few rules and the common law process is slow. In response, the 20th century saw public and private lawmaking bodies enact commercial statutes in discrete legal areas such as secured credit ...


Contractual Evolution, Matthew Jennejohn, Julian Nyarko, Eric L. Talley Jan 2021

Contractual Evolution, Matthew Jennejohn, Julian Nyarko, Eric L. Talley

Faculty Scholarship

Conventional wisdom portrays contracts as static distillations of parties’ shared intent at some discrete point in time. In reality, however, contract terms evolve in response to their environments, including new laws, legal interpretations, and economic shocks. While several legal scholars have offered stylized accounts of this evolutionary process, we still lack a coherent, general theory that broadly captures the dynamics of real-world contracting practice. This paper advances such a theory, in which the evolution of contract terms is a byproduct of several key features, including efficiency concerns, information, and sequential learning by attorneys who negotiate several deals over time. Each ...


Innovation Versus Encrustation: Agency Costs In Contract Reproduction, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2020

Innovation Versus Encrustation: Agency Costs In Contract Reproduction, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

This article studies the impact of exogenous legal change on whether and how lawyers across four different deal types revise their contracts’ governing law clauses in order to solve the problem that the legal change created. The governing law clause is present in practically every contract across a wide range of industries and, in particular, it appears in deals as disparate as private equity M&A transactions and sovereign bond issuances. Properly drafted, the clause increases the ex ante economic value of the contract to both parties by reducing uncertainty and litigation risk. We posit that different levels of agency ...


Some Issues On The Law Of Direct Damages (Us And Uk), Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2019

Some Issues On The Law Of Direct Damages (Us And Uk), Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

When a contract is breached both US and UK law provide that the non-breaching party should be made whole. I propose a general principle that should guide implementation – the contract is an asset and the problem is one of determining the change in value of that asset at the time of the breach. In the simplest case, the breach of a contract for the sale of a commodity in a thick market, the change in the value of the asset is simply the contract-market differential; the contract-as-asset notion doesn’t add much. It becomes more useful as we move away ...


Choice Theory: A Restatement, Michael A. Heller, Hanoch Dagan Jan 2019

Choice Theory: A Restatement, Michael A. Heller, Hanoch Dagan

Faculty Scholarship

This chapter restates choice theory, which advances a liberal approach to contract law. First, we refine the concept of autonomy for contract. Then we address range, limit, and floor, three principles that together justify contract law in a liberal society. The first concerns the state’s obligation to be proactive in facilitating the availability of a multiplicity of contract types. The second refers to the respect contract law owes to the autonomy of a party’s future self, that is, to the ability to re-write the story of one’s life. The final principle concerns relational justice, the baseline for ...


Remedies In The Ucc: Some Critical Thoughts, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2018

Remedies In The Ucc: Some Critical Thoughts, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

This paper for a conference presents a number of criticisms of the remedy provisions in Section 2 of the UCC. The paper focuses on three issues: (a) the relationship between market damages and cover; (b) damages for anticipatory repudiation; and (c) the lost volume seller.


Why Autonomy Must Be Contract's Ultimate Value, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller Jan 2018

Why Autonomy Must Be Contract's Ultimate Value, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller

Faculty Scholarship

In “The Choice Theory of Contracts”, we develop a liberal theory of contract law. One core task of the book was to persuade advocates of economic analysis that they must situate their enterprise within our liberal framework. Autonomy, rightly understood, is the telos of contract.

Oren Bar-Gill pushes back strongly in “Choice Theory and the Economic Analysis of Contracts”. He offers a penetrating – perhaps devastating – critique of our approach. Bar-Gill notes the substantial convergence between choice theory and a welfarist view. If he is right, then what does choice theory add?

Our task in Part I of this Essay is ...


Autonomy For Contract, Refined, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller Jan 2018

Autonomy For Contract, Refined, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller

Faculty Scholarship

In The Choice Theory of Contracts, we advance a claim about the centrality of autonomy to contract. This Issue offers thoughtful and penetrating critiques. Here, we reply. Autonomy is the grounding principle of contract. In Choice Theory, we stressed the (1) proactive facilitation component of autonomy, in particular, the state’s obligation regarding contract types. Here, we highlight two additional, necessary implications of autonomy for contract: (2) regard for future selves and (3) relational justice. These three aspects of autonomy shape the range, limit, and floor, respectively, for the legitimate use of contract. They provide a principled and constrained path ...


The Lost Volume Seller In English Law, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2018

The Lost Volume Seller In English Law, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

If a buyer breaches a contract but the market price has remained unchanged, English courts and the treatises have treated the seller as a “lost volume seller.” The seller, it is argued, could have had two sales, not one, so it lost the profit on the second sale. This paper recognizes that the buyer has an option to terminate and that the contract prices that option. The implicit option price of the lost volume remedy results in an absurd contract, setting the option price high when it should be low and vice versa. The default rule ought to be the ...


Consequential Damages And Exclusion Clauses, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2018

Consequential Damages And Exclusion Clauses, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

Contracts often include language excluding compensation for consequential damages. However, the boundary between consequential and direct damages is a blurry one. Courts have used concepts like foreseeability, natural result of the breach, and collateral business in their attempts to define the boundary. Those categories, I argue, are not particularly helpful. I consider three classes of cases: wrongful termination, delay, and breach of warranty. This paper argues that lost profits, when referring to the change in value of the contract after a wrongful termination would be direct damages; the hard case involves terminated dealers who had been paid indirectly for retailing ...


The Middleman’S Damages Revisited, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2018

The Middleman’S Damages Revisited, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

If A promises to sell to B who, in turn, promises to sell to C and either A or C breaches should B receive the gain it expected had both transactions occurred (lost profits) or the larger market/contract differential? Recent case law and commentary argues for the lost profit remedy. The argument is that there is a conflict between awarding market damages and making the nonbreacher whole. This paper argues that there is no conflict. If B were a broker, and C breached, then A would have an action against C for market damages. If B were party to ...


Freedom, Choice, And Contracts, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller Jan 2018

Freedom, Choice, And Contracts, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller

Faculty Scholarship

In The Choice Theory of Contracts, we explain contractual freedom and celebrate contract types. This Issue offers penetrating critiques. Here, we reply by refining choice theory and showing how it fits and shapes the contract canon.

I. Freedom. (1) Charles Fried challenges our account of Kantian autonomy, but his views, we show, largely converge with choice theory. (2) Nathan Oman argues for a commerce-enhancing account of autonomy. We counter that he arbitrarily slights noncommercial spheres central to human interaction. (3) Yitzhak Benbaji suggests that choice theory’s commitment to autonomy is overly perfectionist. Happily, in reply to Benbaji, we can ...


The Macpherson-Henningsen Puzzle, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2017

The Macpherson-Henningsen Puzzle, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

In the landmark case of MacPherson v. Buick, an automobile company was held liable for negligence notwithstanding a lack of privity with the injured driver. Four decades later, in Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors, the court held unconscionable the standard automobile company warranty which limited its responsibility to repair and replacement, even in a case involving physical injury. This suggests a puzzle: if it were so easy for firms to contract out of liability, did MacPherson accomplish anything?


Patently Risky: Framing, Innovation And Entrepreneurial Preferences, Elizabeth Hoffman, David L. Schwartz, Matthew L. Spitzer, Eric L. Talley Jan 2017

Patently Risky: Framing, Innovation And Entrepreneurial Preferences, Elizabeth Hoffman, David L. Schwartz, Matthew L. Spitzer, Eric L. Talley

Faculty Scholarship

It is well known that innovation law and policy must strike a balance between incentivizing inventions on the one hand, and granting monopolies to successful innovators on the other. In achieving this balance, it is commonly presumed that actors in innovation markets respond to their economic environments just like anyone else (at least on a first approximation). This paper presents evidence to the contrary, using a series of controlled experiments. In our experiments, subjects were offered a choice between (a) a monetary payoff with certainty; and (b) a riskier (but potentially more lucrative) option. Our principal manipulation was to alter ...


The Lost Volume Seller, R.I.P., Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2017

The Lost Volume Seller, R.I.P., Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

If the buyer breaches a sales contract, and if the seller can be characterized as a lost volume seller, courts and commentators have argued that the seller should be made whole by compensation for its lost profits. This paper argues that framing the problem in this way leads to an absurd result. The buyer has a termination option and the remedy should be the implicit option price. The lost profit remedy sets a price on that option, a price that bears no relation to reality. Examination of the case law suggests three conclusions: (a) the remedy often sets an excessive ...


A Note On Victoria Laundry, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2017

A Note On Victoria Laundry, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

In Victoria Laundry v Newman, Asquith LJ claimed that the headnote in Hadley v. Baxendale was “definitely misleading” noting that had it been accurate, the decision would have been decided the other way. In this note, I argue that the headnote was not misleading and, even if it were, his conclusion did not follow. His interpretation lowered the standard for finding liability for consequential damage. Given the facts, Victoria Laundry would have lost, even with his new standard. His solution was simple: alter the facts.


The Choice Theory Of Contracts (Introduction), Hanoch Dagan, Michael Heller Jan 2017

The Choice Theory Of Contracts (Introduction), Hanoch Dagan, Michael Heller

Faculty Scholarship

This concise landmark in law and jurisprudence offers the first coherent, liberal account of contract law. "The Choice Theory of Contracts" answers the field's most pressing questions: What is the “freedom” in “freedom of contract”? What core values animate contract law and how do those values interrelate? How must the state act when it shapes contract law? Hanoch Dagan and Michael Heller show exactly why and how freedom matters to contract. They start with the most appealing tenets of modern liberalism and end with their implications for contract law. This readable, engaging book gives contract scholars, teachers, and students ...


The Common Law Of Contract And The Default Rule Project, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

The Common Law Of Contract And The Default Rule Project, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

The common law developed over centuries a small set of default rules that courts have used to fill gaps in otherwise incomplete contracts between commercial parties. These rules can be applied almost independently of context: the market damages rule, for example, requires a court only to know the difference between market and contract prices. When parties in various sectors of the economy write sales contracts but leave terms blank, courts fill in the blanks with their own rules. As a consequence, a judicial rule that many parties accept must be “transcontextual”: parties in varied commercial contexts accept the courts’ rule ...


The Common Law Of Contract And The Default Rule Project, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

The Common Law Of Contract And The Default Rule Project, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

The common law developed over centuries a small set of default rules that courts have used to fill gaps in otherwise incomplete contracts between commercial parties. These rules can be applied almost independently of context: the market damages rule, for example, requires a court only to know the difference between market and contract prices. When parties in various sectors of the economy write sales contracts but leave terms blank, courts fill in the blanks with their own rules. As a consequence, a judicial rule that many parties accept must be “transcontextual”: parties in varied commercial contexts accept the courts’ rule ...


Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Contracts are inevitably incomplete. And standard-form or boilerplate commercial contracts are especially likely to be incomplete because they are approximations; they are not tailored to the needs of particular deals. Not only do these contracts contain gaps but, in an attempt to reduce incompleteness, they often contain clauses with vague or ambiguous terms. Terms with indeterminate meaning present opportunities for strategic behavior well after a contract has been concluded. This linguistic uncertainty in standard form commercial contracts creates an opportunity for “contractual arbitrage”: parties may argue, ex post, that the uncertainties in expression mean something that the contracting parties, ex ...


After The Golden Victory: Still Lost At Sea, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2016

After The Golden Victory: Still Lost At Sea, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

In The Golden Victory the House of Lords held that when determining damages for a repudiatory breach, in a conflict between the compensatory principle and finality, the former trumped. The decision was recently ratified by the Supreme Court in Bunge SA v. Nidera BV. The claim in this paper is that this was a mistake; properly conceived, there is no conflict. The contract should be viewed as an asset and compensation would entail determining the decline in value of that asset at the time of the breach. The value of the contract at that moment would reflect the possible effects ...


Reckoning Contract Damages: Valuation Of The Contract As An Asset, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2016

Reckoning Contract Damages: Valuation Of The Contract As An Asset, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

When a contract is breached the law in most jurisdictions provides some version of the aphorism that the non-breaching party should be made whole. Application of the aphorism has proven problematic, particularly for anticipatory repudiations. This paper argues for a general principle that should guide application — the contract is an asset and the problem is one of valuation of the change in value of that asset at the time of the breach. This provides a framework that will help clear up some conceptual problems in damage assessment. The focus is on direct damages, not consequential damages.

The paper begins with ...


Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

Contractual Arbitrage, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Contracts are inevitably incomplete. And standard-form or boilerplate commercial contracts are especially likely to be incomplete because they are approximations; they are not tailored to the needs of particular deals. Not only do these contracts contain gaps but, in an attempt to reduce incompleteness, they often contain clauses with vague or ambiguous terms. Terms with indeterminate meaning present opportunities for strategic behavior well after a contract has been concluded. This linguistic uncertainty in standard form commercial contracts creates an opportunity for “contractual arbitrage”: parties may argue, ex post, that the uncertainties in expression mean something that the contracting parties, ex ...


From British Westinghouse To The New Flamenco: Misunderstanding Mitigation, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2016

From British Westinghouse To The New Flamenco: Misunderstanding Mitigation, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

Both the venerable British Westinghouse decision and the current New Flamenco case have been analyzed in terms of mitigation. Properly understood, in neither is mitigation relevant. Although in the former, the House of Lords came to the right result, the replacement of the substandard turbines with new superior ones was not to mitigate damages — the buyer would have installed the new turbines even had the Westinghouse turbines met the contractual specifications. Even if Westinghouse’s failure accelerated the replacement (which it almost certainly did not) it would have been a mistake to compensate the buyer for the cost of the ...


Contracting Out Of The Fiduciary Duty Of Loyalty: An Empirical Analysis Of Corporate Opportunity Waivers, Gabriel V. Rauterberg, Eric L. Talley Jan 2016

Contracting Out Of The Fiduciary Duty Of Loyalty: An Empirical Analysis Of Corporate Opportunity Waivers, Gabriel V. Rauterberg, Eric L. Talley

Faculty Scholarship

For centuries, the duty of loyalty has been the hallowed centerpiece of fiduciary obligation, widely considered one of the few “mandatory” rules of corporate law. That view, however, is no longer true. Beginning in 2000, Delaware dramatically departed from tradition by granting incorporated entities a statutory right to waive a crucial part of the duty of loyalty: the corporate opportunities doctrine. Other states have since followed Delaware’s lead, similarly permitting firms to execute “corporate opportunity waivers.” Surprisingly, more than fifteen years into this reform experiment, no empirical study has attempted to measure either the corporate response to these reforms ...


Variation In Boilerplate: Rational Design Or Random Mutation?, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott Jan 2016

Variation In Boilerplate: Rational Design Or Random Mutation?, Stephen J. Choi, G. Mitu Gulati, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Standard contract doctrine presumes that sophisticated parties choose their terminology carefully because they want courts or counterparts to understand what they intended. The implication of this “Rational Design” model of rational behavior is that courts should pay careful attention to the precise phrasing of contracts. Using a study of the sovereign bond market, we examine the Rational Design model as applied to standard-form contracting. In NML v. Argentina, federal courts in New York attached importance to the precise phrasing of the boilerplate contracts at issue. The industry promptly condemned the decision for a supposedly erroneous interpretation of a variant of ...


Opinion Of Justice Katherine Franke In Obergefell V. Hodges, Katherine M. Franke Jan 2016

Opinion Of Justice Katherine Franke In Obergefell V. Hodges, Katherine M. Franke

Faculty Scholarship

Professor Jack Balkin has assembled a group of 9 scholars and advocates to write opinions in the Obergefell v. Hodges case for a forthcoming volume, What Obergefell Should Have Said (Yale University Press 2017). Balkin writes for the majority of the Court and I provide a concurrence along with a short commentary explaining my approach and reasoning. In summary, I conclude that: Laws barring same-sex couples from eligibility for licensure as civil marriages violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they find their origin in and perpetuate notions of heterosexual supremacy, and have the aim and effect ...


Third Party Beneficiaries And Contractual Networks, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott Jan 2015

Third Party Beneficiaries And Contractual Networks, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

An increasing trend of economic agents is to form productive associations such as networks, platforms and other hybrids. Subsets of these agents contract with each other to further their network project and these contracts can create benefits for, or impose costs on, agents who are not contract parties. Contract law regulates third party claims against contract parties with the third party beneficiary doctrine, which directs courts to ask whether the contracting parties “intended” to benefit a particular third party. We show here what courts do with third party claims when network members fail to perform for third parties and what ...


Rethinking Jacob And Youngs V. Kent, Victor P. Goldberg Jan 2015

Rethinking Jacob And Youngs V. Kent, Victor P. Goldberg

Faculty Scholarship

Jacob and Youngs v. Kent has long been a staple in Contracts casebooks. This paper makes three contributions. First, it demonstrates that Cardozo broke no new ground. The law involving willfulness and substantial completion in building contracts had been around for half a century. The recognition of value of completion when the cost substantially exceeded the value was also well established. Second, it examines the record and concludes that Cardozo’s decision was justified. In particular it resolves two puzzles: (a) why did both the majority and dissent ignore the condition that the architect provide a certificate of completion; and ...


Reinterpreting The Status-Contract Divide: The Case Of Fiduciaries, Hanoch Dagan, Elizabeth S. Scott Jan 2015

Reinterpreting The Status-Contract Divide: The Case Of Fiduciaries, Hanoch Dagan, Elizabeth S. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

The distinction between status and contract permeates legal analyses of categories of cooperative interpersonal interactions in which one party has particular obligations to the other. But the current binary understanding of the distinction has facilitated its use as a foil and thus undermined its conceptual and normative significance. This predicament is understandable given that the innate, comprehensive and inalienable status as well as the wholly open-ended contract anticipated by commentators are corner – rather than core – alternatives in a liberal polity. Hence, to clarify these normative debates we introduce two further, intermediate conceptions: office and contract type. Like the innate status ...