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Courts of law and unforeseen contingencies

  • Luca Anderlini
  • Leonardo Felli
  • Andrew Postlewaite

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 againt the unforeseen contingencies which the ex-ante contract cannot take into account. In this context, we are able to characterise fully the optimal decision rule for the court. The behaviour of the optimal court is determined by the trade-off between the need for incentives and the gains from insurance that voiding in some circumstances offers to the agents.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 3576.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:3576
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  1. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Anderlini Luca & Felli Leonardo & Postlewaite Andrew, 2011. "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 14-28, February.
  4. repec:oup:restud:v:66:y:1999:i:1:p:57-82 is not listed on IDEAS
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  12. Al-Najjar, Nabil I. & Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo, 2002. "Unforeseen Contingencies," CEPR Discussion Papers 3271, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Nabil I. Al-Najjar & Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 2006. "Undescribable Events," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 849-868.
  14. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:2:p:387-432 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. repec:oup:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:2:p:387-432 is not listed on IDEAS
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  17. Jean Tirole, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts: Where Do We Stand?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 741-782, July.
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