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Enforcing Contracts: Should Courts Seek the Truth?

  • Claude Fluet

I examine the case where fulfillment of a contractual commitment is only imperfectly verifiable and ask whether the court should then tell the truth regarding the action in dispute. I show that truth seeking does not maximize the expected surplus from contractual relationships. From the parties' viewpoint, the enforcer should disregard some of the available information and should sometimes rule in favor of one party, even though his understanding is that the other party is most probably right. The analysis provides a justification for rules of evidence in common law and for the use by courts of neutral normative priors regarding contending claims.

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Article provided by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen in its journal Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics.

Volume (Year): 159 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 49-

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Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(200303)159:1_49:ecscst_2.0.tx_2-l
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  1. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2002. "Preponderance of Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 725, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Paul R. Milgrom & John Roberts, 1985. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 749, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Lewis, Tracy R & Poitevin, Michel, 1997. "Disclosure of Information in Regulatory Proceedings," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 50-73, April.
  4. Froeb, Luke M & Kobayashi, Bruce H, 1996. "Naive, Biased, Yet Bayesian: Can Juries Interpret Selectively Produced Evidence?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 257-76, April.
  5. Claude Fluet, 1998. "Régulation des risques et insolvabilité: le rôle de la responsabilité pour faute en information imparfaite," Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM 9802, Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques.
  6. Daughety, Andrew F & Reinganum, Jennifer F, 2000. "On the Economics of Trials: Adversarial Process, Evidence, and Equilibrium Bias," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 365-94, October.
  7. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1989. "Legal Error, Litigation, and the Incentive to Obey the Law," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 99-108, Spring.
  8. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-15, April.
  9. Hylton, Keith N, 1990. "Costly Litigation and Legal Error under Negligence," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 433-52, Fall.
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