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Courts of Law and Unforeseen Contingencies

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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Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~03-03-26.

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Date of creation: 36 Mar 2003
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~03-03-26
Contact details of provider: Postal: Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Phone: 202-687-6074
Fax: 202-687-6102
Web page: http://econ.georgetown.edu/
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Order Information: Postal: Roger Lagunoff Professor of Economics Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
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  2. Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo & Postlewaite, Andrew, 2004. "Should Courts Always Enforce What Contracting Parties Write?," CEPR Discussion Papers 4197, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  12. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L. & Rustichini, Aldo, 1998. "Recent developments in modeling unforeseen contingencies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 523-542, May.
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