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Enforcing Contracts: Should Courts Seek the Truth?

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  • Claude Fluet

Abstract

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." J'analyse le cas où la réalisation d'un engagement contractuel n'est qu'imparfaitement vérifiable. La question posée est de savoir si le tribunal doit alors « dire le vrai » quant aux actions faisant l'objet d'un litige. Je montre que, du point de vue des contractants, la cour devrait faire abstraction d'une partie de l'information disponible et qu'elle devrait parfois statuer en faveur d'un des contractants, même si elle considère plus probable que l'autre ait raison. Cette analyse fournit une justification à certaines règles de procédure en droit civil et elle justifie le recours à des a priori normatifs neutres dans le règlement des différends.

Suggested Citation

  • Claude Fluet, 2002. "Enforcing Contracts: Should Courts Seek the Truth?," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-76, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2002s-76
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    File URL: http://www.cirano.qc.ca/files/publications/2002s-76.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Hylton, Keith N, 1990. "Costly Litigation and Legal Error under Negligence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 433-452, Fall.
    3. Fluet, Claude, 1999. "Régulation des risques et insolvabilité : le rôle de la responsabilité pour faute en information imparfaite," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 75(1), pages 379-399, mars-juin.
    4. Demougin, Dominique & Fluet, Claude, 2006. "Preponderance of evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 963-976, May.
    5. 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.
    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 365-394, October.
    7. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1986. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 18-32, 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. 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 257-276, April.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2008. "Rules of proof, courts, and incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 20-40.
    2. Robert Cooter & Winand Emons, 2003. "Truth-Revealing Mechanisms for Courts," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 159(2), pages 259-259, June.
    3. Robert Cooter & Winand Emons, 2004. "Truth-Bonding and Other Truth-Revealing Mechanisms for Courts," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 307-327, May.
    4. Fluet, Claude, 2010. "L’économie de la preuve judiciaire," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 86(4), pages 451-486, décembre.
    5. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2005. "Deterrence versus Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(2), pages 193-193, June.
    6. Bruno Deffains, 2008. "Civil Justice Reform: A Mechanism Design Framework. Comment," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 164(1), pages 68-71, March.
    7. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2004. "Deterrence vs Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof," CIRANO Working Papers 2004s-38, CIRANO.
    8. Fluet, Claude, 2010. "Liability rules under evidentiary uncertainty," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 1-9, March.
    9. Fares, M’hand, 2005. "Quels fondements à l’incomplétude des contrats?," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 81(3), pages 535-555, Septembre.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Adjudication; contract; enforcement; rules of evidence; standard of proof; value of information; Jugements de cour; exécution des contrats; règles de procédure; standard de preuve; valeur de l'information;

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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