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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Contract Interpretation Policy Debate: A Primer, Joshua M. Silverstein Feb 2021

The Contract Interpretation Policy Debate: A Primer, Joshua M. Silverstein

Faculty Scholarship

Contract interpretation is one of the most significant areas of commercial law. As a result, there is an extensive academic and judicial debate over the optimal method for construing agreements. Throughout this exchange, scholars and courts have advanced a wide array of conceptual, theoretical, and empirical arguments in support of the two primary schools of interpretation— textualism and contextualism—as well as various hybrid positions. This Essay is intended to serve as a primer on those arguments.


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 ...


The Judicial Admissions Exception To The Statute Of Frauds: A Curiously Gradual Adoption, Wayne Barnes Dec 2020

The Judicial Admissions Exception To The Statute Of Frauds: A Curiously Gradual Adoption, Wayne Barnes

Faculty Scholarship

The statute of frauds requires certain categories of contracts to be evidenced by a signed writing. The original purpose of the statute of frauds, indeed its titular purpose, is the prevention of the fraudulent assertion of a non-existent oral contract. Although a signed writing is the formal way in which to satisfy the statute of frauds, courts have long recognized various exceptions to the writing requirement which will be held to satisfy the statute absent a writing. The effect of such exceptions is that they constitute an alternative form of evidence for the presence of a contract. One such exception ...


Interpreting Contracts In A Regulatory State, Aditi Bagchi Jan 2020

Interpreting Contracts In A Regulatory State, Aditi Bagchi

Faculty Scholarship

Some scholars would limit courts to the text of written agreements when interpreting contracts on the theory that parties meant what they said, and said what they meant. Other scholars would have courts take into account the factual context surrounding contract formation. Both sides of this debate assume that contract interpretation is largely limited to reconstructing contracting parties’ intentions.

This assumption is mistaken. Since the overturning of Lochner v New York, contracting parties no longer have exclusive authority over contracts. State authority to regulate contract came at the expense of unbridled private authority. A more limited conception of contracting parties ...


Lying And Cheating, Or Self-Help And Civil-Disobedience?, Aditi Bagchi Jan 2020

Lying And Cheating, Or Self-Help And Civil-Disobedience?, Aditi Bagchi

Faculty Scholarship

May poor sellers lie to rich buyers? This article argues that, under limited circumstances, sellers may indeed have a license to lie about their goods. Where sellers are losers under unjust background institutions and they reasonably believe that buyers have more than they would under just institutions, lies that result in de minimum transfers can be regarded as a kind of self-help. More generally, what we owe each other in our interpersonal interactions depends on the institutional backdrop. Consumer contract law, including its enforcement regimes, should recognize the social and political contingency of sellers’ obligations to buyers. In other contexts ...


Contractual Incapacity And The Americans With Disabilities Act, Sean M. Scott Jan 2020

Contractual Incapacity And The Americans With Disabilities Act, Sean M. Scott

Faculty Scholarship

The doctrine of contractual incapacity allows people with mental disabilities to avoid their contractual liability. Its underlying premise is that the law has an obligation to protect people with such disabilities both from themselves and from unscrupulous people who would take advantage of them; mental incapacity provides this protection by rendering certain contracts unenforceable. The Disability Rights Movement ("DRM"), however, has challenged such protective legal doctrines, as they rest on outmoded concepts about people with mental disabilities.

This essay argues that the mental incapacity doctrine undermines the goals of the DRM and the legislative goals of the Americans with Disabilities ...


The Myth Of Optimal Expectation Damages, Theresa Arnold, Amanda Dixon, Madison Sherrill, Mitu Gulati Jan 2020

The Myth Of Optimal Expectation Damages, Theresa Arnold, Amanda Dixon, Madison Sherrill, Mitu Gulati

Faculty Scholarship

A much-debated question in contract law scholarship is what the optimal measure of damages for breach should be. The casebook answer-drawing from the theory of efficient breach-is expectation damages. This standard answer, which was a major contribution of the law and economics field, has come under attack by theoreticians within that field itself. To shed an empirical perspective on the question, we look at data on the types of damages provisions parties contract/or themselves in international debt contracts. Specifically, we examine issuer call provisions, which are economically equivalent to damages for prepayment, yet not viewed as legally problematic in ...


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 ...


Revising Boilerplate: A Comparison Of Private And Public Company Transactions, Stephen J. Choi, Robert E. Scott, G. Mitu Gulati Jan 2020

Revising Boilerplate: A Comparison Of Private And Public Company Transactions, Stephen J. Choi, Robert E. Scott, G. Mitu Gulati

Faculty Scholarship

The textbook model of commercial contracts between sophisticated parties holds that terms are proposed, negotiated and ultimately priced by the parties. Parties reach agreement on contract provisions that best suit their transaction with the goal of maximizing the joint surplus from the contract. The reality, of course, is that the majority of the provisions in contemporary commercial contracts are boilerplate terms derived from prior transactions and even the most sophisticated contracting parties pay little attention to these standard terms, focusing instead on the price of the transaction. With standard-form or boilerplate contracts, this dynamic of replicating by rote the terms ...


The Economics Of Leasing, Thomas W. Merrill Jan 2020

The Economics Of Leasing, Thomas W. Merrill

Faculty Scholarship

Leasing may be the most important legal institution that has received virtually no systematic scholarly attention. Real property leasing is familiar in the context of residential tenancies. But it is also widely used in commercial contexts, including office buildings and shopping centers. Personal property leasing, which was rarely encountered before World War II, has more recently exploded on a world-wide basis, with everything from autos to farm equipment to airplanes being leased. This article seeks to develop a composite picture of the defining features of leases and why leasing is such a widespread and highly successful economic institution. The reasons ...


Specific Performance, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller Jan 2020

Specific Performance, Hanoch Dagan, Michael A. Heller

Faculty Scholarship

When should specific performance be available for breach of contract? This question has engaged generations of legal economists and philosophers, historians and comparativists. Yet none of these disciplines have provided a persuasive answer. This Article provides a normatively-attractive and conceptually-coherent account. Respect for the autonomy of the promisor’s future self explains why expectation damages are, and should be, the ordinary remedy for contract breach. Also, this same normative commitment to the contracting parties’ autonomy best justifies the “uniqueness exception,” where specific performance is typically awarded, and the personal services exclusion, where it is not. For the most part, the ...


Foreign Contracts And U.S. Copyright Termination Rights: What Law Applies? – Comment, Richard Arnold, Jane C. Ginsburg Jan 2020

Foreign Contracts And U.S. Copyright Termination Rights: What Law Applies? – Comment, Richard Arnold, Jane C. Ginsburg

Faculty Scholarship

The U.S. Copyright Act gives authors the right to terminate assignments of copyrights in works other than works for hire executed on or after 1 January 1978 after 35 years, and to do so notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary. Given that agreements which are subject to the laws of other countries can assign U.S. copyrights, and purport to do so in perpetuity, U.S. law’s preclusion of agreements contrary to the author’s right to exercise her termination right can give rise to a difficult choice of law issue. Two recent cases which came before courts ...


Voluntary Obligation And Contract, Aditi Bagchi Jan 2019

Voluntary Obligation And Contract, Aditi Bagchi

Faculty Scholarship

Absent mistake or misrepresentation, most scholars assume that parties who agree to contract do so voluntarily. Scholars tend further to regard that choice as an important exercise in moral agency. Hanoch Dagan and Michael Heller are right to question the quality of our choices. Where the fundamental contours of the transaction are legally determined, parties have little opportunity to exercise autonomous choice over the terms on which they deal with others. To the extent that our choices in contract do not reflect our individual moral constitutions — our values, virtues, vices, the set of reasons we reject and the set of ...


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Online Reviews: The Trouble With Trolls And A Role For Contract Law After The Consumer Review Fairness Act, Wayne Barnes Jan 2019

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Online Reviews: The Trouble With Trolls And A Role For Contract Law After The Consumer Review Fairness Act, Wayne Barnes

Faculty Scholarship

The advent of the Internet has brought innumerable innovations to our lives. Among the innovations is the meteoric rise in the volume of e-commerce conducted on the Internet. Correspondingly, consumer-posted information about merchants, goods, and services has also begun to be a rich source of information for consumers researching a purchase online. This information takes many forms, but a major category is the narrative review describing the purchase and experience. Such reviews are posted on websites such as Yelp, Amazon and TripAdvisor, on apps, and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The amount and volume of reviews has ...


Dartmouth College V. Woodward And The Structure Of Civil Society, Ernest A. Young Jan 2019

Dartmouth College V. Woodward And The Structure Of Civil Society, Ernest A. Young

Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.


The Price Of Law: The Case Of The Eurozone's Collective Action Clauses, Elena Carletti, Paolo Colla, Mitu Gulati, Steven Ongena Jan 2018

The Price Of Law: The Case Of The Eurozone's Collective Action Clauses, Elena Carletti, Paolo Colla, Mitu Gulati, Steven Ongena

Faculty Scholarship

Do markets value contract protections? And does the quality of a legal system affect such valuations? To answer these questions we exploit a unique experiment whereby, after January 1, 2013, newly issued sovereign bonds of Eurozone countries under domestic law had to include Collective Action Clauses (CACs) specifying the minimum vote needed to modify payment terms. We find that CAC bonds trade at lower yields than otherwise similar no-CAC bonds; and that the quality of the legal system matters for this differential. Hence, markets appear to see CACs as providing protection against the legal risk embedded in domestic-law sovereign bonds.


Control Of The Attorney-Client Privilege After Mergers And Other Transformational Transactions: Should Control Of The Privilege Be Alienable By Contract?, Grace M. Giesel Jan 2018

Control Of The Attorney-Client Privilege After Mergers And Other Transformational Transactions: Should Control Of The Privilege Be Alienable By Contract?, Grace M. Giesel

Faculty Scholarship

In recent years, parties to mergers and other transformational transactions have begun inserting into their deal documents provisions allocating post-transaction control of the attorney-client privilege for pretransaction communications. The controller of the privilege is the person or entity who decides whether to assert the privilege or, rather, to waive it. Commonly, representatives of the target entity in a merger or representatives of an asset seller in a transformational sale want post-transaction control of the privilege for pre-transaction communications relating to the transaction. They want control of the privilege so the surviving entity cannot access or use those communications against the ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Arrested Development: Rethinking The Contract Age Of Majority For The Twenty-First Century Adolescent, Wayne Barnes Apr 2017

Arrested Development: Rethinking The Contract Age Of Majority For The Twenty-First Century Adolescent, Wayne Barnes

Faculty Scholarship

The contract age of majority is currently age 18. Contracts entered into by minors under this age are generally voidable at the minor’s option. This contract doctrine of capacity is based on the policy of protecting minors from their own poor financial decisions and lack of adultlike judgment. Conversely, the age of 18 is currently set as the arbitrary age at which one will be bound to her contract, since this is the current benchmark for becoming an “adult.” However, this article questions the accuracy of age 18 for this benchmark. Until comparatively recently, the age of contract majority ...


Rise Of The Digital Regulator, Rory Van Loo Mar 2017

Rise Of The Digital Regulator, Rory Van Loo

Faculty Scholarship

The administrative state is leveraging algorithms to influence individuals’ private decisions. Agencies have begun to write rules to shape for-profit websites such as Expedia and have launched their own online tools such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s mortgage calculator. These digital intermediaries aim to guide people toward better schools, healthier food, and more savings. But enthusiasm for this regulatory paradigm rests on two questionable assumptions. First, digital intermediaries effectively police consumer markets. Second, they require minimal government involvement. Instead, some for-profit online advisers such as travel websites have become what many mortgage brokers were before the 2008 financial ...


Sovereign Debt And The “Contracts Matter” Hypothesis, W. Mark C. Weidemaier, Mitu Gulati Jan 2017

Sovereign Debt And The “Contracts Matter” Hypothesis, W. Mark C. Weidemaier, Mitu Gulati

Faculty Scholarship

The academic literature on sovereign debt largely assumes that law has little role to play. Indeed, the primary question addressed by the literature is why sovereigns repay at all given the irrelevance of legal enforcement. But if law, and specifically contract law, does not matter, how to explain the fact that sovereign loans involve detailed contracts, expensive lawyers, and frequent litigation? This Essay makes the case that contract design matters even in a world where sovereign borrowers are hard (but not impossible) to sue. We identify a number of gaps in the research that warrant further investigation.


An Autopsy Of Cooperation: Diamond Dealers And The Limits Of Trust-Based Exchange, Barak D. Richman Jan 2017

An Autopsy Of Cooperation: Diamond Dealers And The Limits Of Trust-Based Exchange, Barak D. Richman

Faculty Scholarship

Both academic and popular representations of the diamond industry describe trust-based relations and an industry arbitration system that sustain trade. In recent years, however, trust among merchants has eroded, and merchants have correspondingly lost confidence in the industry's arbitration. This article describes the events that have led to the breakdown of cooperative trust in the industry and derives lessons regarding the nature and limits of reputation-based exchange in the modern economy.


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?


Correlative Obligation In Patent Law: The Role Of Public Good In Defining The Limits Of Patent Exclusivity, Srividhya Ragavan Oct 2016

Correlative Obligation In Patent Law: The Role Of Public Good In Defining The Limits Of Patent Exclusivity, Srividhya Ragavan

Faculty Scholarship

In light of the recent outrageous price-spiking of pharmaceuticals, this Article questions the underlying justifications for exclusive rights conferred by the grant of a patent. Traditionally, patents are defined as property rights granted to encourage desirable innovation. This definition is a misfit as treating patents as property rights does a poor job of defining the limits of the patent rights as well as the public benefit goals of the system. This misfit gradually caused an imbalance in the rights versus duties construct within patent law. After a thorough analysis of the historical and philosophical perspectives of patent exclusivity, this Article ...


Apple Pay, Bitcoin, And Consumers: The Abcs Of Future Public Payments Law, Mark Edwin Burge Aug 2016

Apple Pay, Bitcoin, And Consumers: The Abcs Of Future Public Payments Law, Mark Edwin Burge

Faculty Scholarship

As technology rolls out ongoing and competing streams of payments innovation, exemplified by Apple Pay (mobile payments) and Bitcoin (cryptocurrency), the law governing these payments appears hopelessly behind the curve. The patchwork of state, federal, and private legal rules seems more worthy of condemnation than emulation. This Article argues, however, that the legal and market developments of the last several decades in payment systems provide compelling evidence of the most realistic and socially beneficial future for payments law. The paradigm of a comprehensive public law regulatory scheme for payment systems, exemplified by Articles 3 and 4 of the Uniform Commercial ...


Contract Development In A Matching Market: The Case Of Kidney Exchange, Kimberly D. Krawiec, Wenhao Liu, Marc L. Melcher Jan 2016

Contract Development In A Matching Market: The Case Of Kidney Exchange, Kimberly D. Krawiec, Wenhao Liu, Marc L. Melcher

Faculty Scholarship

We analyze a new transplant innovation — Advanced Donation, referred to by some as a kidney “gift certificate,” “layaway plan,” or “voucher — as a case study offering insights on both market and contract development. Advanced Donation provides an unusual window into the evolution of the exchange of a single good — a kidney for transplantation — from gift, to simple barter, to exchange with a temporal separation of obligations that relies solely on trust and reputational constraints for enforcement, to a complex matching market in which the parties rely, at least in part, on formal contract to define and clarify their obligations to ...


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 ...