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Columbia Law School

Yale Law Journal

Contracts

Articles 1 - 7 of 7

Full-Text Articles in Law

Contract Interpretation Redux, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott Jan 2010

Contract Interpretation Redux, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Contract interpretation remains the largest single source of contract litigation between business firms. In part this is because contract interpretation issues are difficult, but it also reflects a deep divide between textualist and contextualist theories of interpretation. While a strong majority of U.S. courts continue to follow the traditional, "formalist" approach to contract interpretation, some courts and most commentators prefer the "contextualist" interpretive principles that are reflected in the Uniform Commercial Code and the Second Restatement. In 2003, we published an article that set out a formalist theory of contract interpretation to govern agreements between business firms. We argued ...


Anticipating Litigation In Contract Design, Robert E. Scott, George G. Triantis Jan 2005

Anticipating Litigation In Contract Design, Robert E. Scott, George G. Triantis

Faculty Scholarship

Contract theory does not address the question of how parties design contracts under the existing adversarial system, which relies on the parties to establish relevant facts indirectly by the use of evidentiary proxies. In this Article, we advance a theory of contract design in a world of costly litigation. We examine the efficiency of investment at the front end and back end of the contracting process, where we focus on litigation as the back-end stage. In deciding whether to express their obligations in precise or vague terms, contracting parties implicitly allocate costs between the front and back end. When the ...


Contract Theory And The Limits Of Contract Law, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott Jan 2003

Contract Theory And The Limits Of Contract Law, Alan Schwartz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

Contract law has neither a complete descriptive theory, explaining what the law is, nor a complete normative theory, explaining what the law should be. These gaps are unsurprising given the traditional definition of contract as embracing all promises that the law will enforce. Even a theory of contract law that focuses only on the enforcement of bargains must still consider the entire continuum from standard form contracts between firms and consumers to commercial contracts among businesses. No descriptive theory has yet explained a law of contract that comprehends such a broad domain. Normative theories that are grounded in a single ...


Optimal Standardization In The Law Of Property: The Numerus Clausus Principle, Thomas W. Merrill, Henry E. Smith Jan 2000

Optimal Standardization In The Law Of Property: The Numerus Clausus Principle, Thomas W. Merrill, Henry E. Smith

Faculty Scholarship

A central difference between contract and property concerns the freedom to "customize" legally enforceable interests. The law of contract recognizes no inherent limitations on the nature or the duration of the interests that can be the subject of a legally binding contract. Certain types of promises – such as promises to commit a crime – are declared unenforceable as a matter of public policy. But outside these relatively narrow areas of proscription and requirements such as definiteness and (maybe) consideration, there is a potentially infinite range of promises that the law will honor. The parties to a contract are free to be ...


When Should An Offer Stick? The Economics Of Promissory Estoppel In Preliminary Negotiations, Avery W. Katz Jan 1996

When Should An Offer Stick? The Economics Of Promissory Estoppel In Preliminary Negotiations, Avery W. Katz

Faculty Scholarship

The purpose of this Article is to examine the doctrine of promissory estoppel, as it applies in the context of preliminary negotiations, from the viewpoint of the economic theory of rational choice. This is part of a larger project that attempts to understand better the regulatory role of contract formation law generally. From a regulatory vantage point, estoppel and related legal doctrines operate as economic regulations; they shape the bargaining process by influencing the negotiators' incentives to make and to rely on preliminary communications. As with all economic regulations, however, some rules do better than others at promoting efficient exchange ...


Plea-Bargaining As A Social Contract, Robert E. Scott, William J. Stuntz Jan 1992

Plea-Bargaining As A Social Contract, Robert E. Scott, William J. Stuntz

Faculty Scholarship

Most criminal prosecutions are settled without a trial. The parties to these settlements trade various risks and entitlements: the defendant relinquishes the right to go to trial (along with any chance of acquittal), while the prosecutor gives up the entitlement to seek the highest sentence or pursue the most serious charges possible. The resulting bargains differ predictably from what would have happened had the same cases been taken to trial. Defendants who bargain for a plea serve lower sentences than those who do not. On the other hand, everyone who pleads guilty is, by definition, convicted, while a substantial minority ...


Enforcing Promises: An Examination Of The Basis Of Contract, Charles J. Goetz, Robert E. Scott Jan 1979

Enforcing Promises: An Examination Of The Basis Of Contract, Charles J. Goetz, Robert E. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

The obligation to keep promises is a commonly acknowledged moral duty. Yet not all promises – however solemnly vowed – are enforceable at law. Why are some promises legally binding and others not? Orthodox doctrinal categories provide only modest assistance in answering this persistent question. Conventional analysis, for example, has distinguished promises made in exchange for a return promise or performance from nonreciprocal promises. Indeed, common law "bargain theory" is classically simple: bargained-for promises are presumptively enforceable; nonreciprocal promises are presumptively unenforceable. But this disarmingly simple theory has never mirrored reality. Contract law has ventured far beyond such narrow limitations, embracing reliance ...