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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." 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.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2002s-76.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2002s-76
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  1. 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.
  2. Lewis, T. & Poitevin, M., 1994. "Disclosure of Information in regulatory Proceedings," Cahiers de recherche 9414, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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 365-94, October.
  7. Demougin, Dominique & Fluet, Claude, 2006. "Preponderance of evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 963-976, May.
  8. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1992. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," NBER Working Papers 4203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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 257-76, April.
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