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Information and the Scope of Liability for Breach of Contract: The Rule of Hadley vs. Baxendale

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  • Bebchuk, Lucian Ayre
  • Shavell, Steven

Abstract

According to the contract law principle established in the famous nineteenth century English case of Hadley v. Baxendale, and followed ever since in the common law world, liability for a breach of contract is limited to losses "arising ... according to the usual course of things," or that may be reasonably supposed "to have been in the contemplation of both parties, at the time they made the contract, ..." Using a formal model, we attempt in this paper to analyze systematically the effects and the efficiency of this limitation on contract damages. We study two alternative rules: the limited liability rule of Hadley, and an unlimited liability rule. Our analysis focuses on the effects of the alternative rules on two types of decisions: buyers' decisions about communicating their valuations of performance to sellers; and sellers' decisions about their level of precautions to reduce the likelihood of nonperformance. We identify the efficient behavior of buyers and sellers. We then compare this efficient behavior with the decisions that buyers and sellers in fact make under the limited and unlimited liability rules. This analysis enables us to provide a full characterization of the conditions under which each of the rules induces, or fails to induce, efficient behavior, as well as the conditions under which each of the rules is superior to the other.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Law, Economics and Organization.

Volume (Year): 7 (1991)
Issue (Month): 2 (Fall)
Pages: 284-312

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:7:y:1991:i:2:p:284-312

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Cited by:
  1. Luca Anderlini, Leonardo Felli, & Andrew Postlewaite, . "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-29, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  2. Steven Shavell, 2003. "On the Writing and the Interpretation of Contracts," NBER Working Papers 10094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Zervogianni, Eleni, 2004. "Remedies for damage to property: money damages or restitution in natura?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 525-541, December.
  4. Surajeet Chakravarty & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2008. "Contracting in the Shadow of the Law," NBER Working Papers 13960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Chakravarty, Surajeet & MacLeod, W. Bentley, 2006. "Construction Contracts (or: "How to Get the Right Building at the Right Price?")," IZA Discussion Papers 2125, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Miceli, Thomas J. & Sirmans, C. F., 1995. "An economic theory of adverse possession," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 161-173, June.
  7. Hviid, Morten, 1996. "Default rules and equilibrium selection of contract terms," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 233-245, June.
  8. Liu, Zhiyong & Avraham, Ronen, 2012. "Ex ante versus ex post expectation damages," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 339-355.
  9. Isabel Marcin & Andreas Nicklisch, 2014. "Testing the Endowment Effect for Default Rules," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2014_01, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  10. Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci & Sander Onderstal & Francesco Parisi, 2011. "Inverse Adverse Selection: The Market for Gems," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-017/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  11. De Geest, Gerrit, 2013. "N problems require N instruments," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 42-57.

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