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Courts of Law and Unforeseen Contingencies

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  • Luca Anderlini

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Georgetown University)

  • Leonardo Felli

    ()
    (Department of Economics, London School of Economics)

  • Andrew Postlewaite

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

We study a contracting model with unforeseen contingencies in which the court is an active player. Ex-ante, the contracting parties cannot include the risky unforeseen contingencies in the contract they draw up. Ex-post the court observes whether an unforeseen contingency occurred, and decides whether to void or uphold the contract. If the contract is voided by the court, the parties can renegotiate a new agreement ex-post. There are two effects of a court that voids more contracts. The parties’ incentives to undertake relationship-specific investment are reduced, while the parties enjoy greater insurance against the unforeseen contingencies which the ex-ante contract cannot take into account. In this context, we are able to characterize fully the optimal decision rule for the court. The behavior of the optimal court is determined by the tradeoff between the need for incentives and the gains from insurance that voiding in some circumstances offers to the agents.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 06-001.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2001
Date of revision: 01 Jan 2006
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:06-001

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Keywords: Courts of Law; Unforeseen Contingencies; Precedents; Incentives; Insurance;

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  1. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power In A Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432, May.
  2. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Economic Analysis of Law," NBER Working Papers 6960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli & Andrew Postlewaite, 2006. "Should Courts always Enforce what Contracting Parties Write?," CESifo Working Paper Series 1847, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-58, December.
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  7. Al-Najjar, Nabil I. & Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo, 2002. "Unforeseen Contingencies," CEPR Discussion Papers 3271, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  11. Segal, Ilya, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82, January.
  12. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Scholarly Articles 3450060, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1997. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1787, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  14. Schwartz, Alan & Watson, Joel, 2001. "The Law and Economics of Costly Contracting," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2wh8m7bv, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  15. Alan Schwartz, 2004. "The Law and Economics of Costly Contracting," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 2-31, April.
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