January 13, 2006
Axl Rose Sues Car Dealership for Breach of Contract
It’s Welcome to the Jungle for Guns & Roses front-man Axl Rose, who has sued a
[Meredith R. Miller]
January 12, 2006
Shows We All Remember
From Network (1976):
Barbara: These are those four outlines submitted by Universal for an hour series. You needn't bother to read them; I'll tell them to you. The first one is set at a large Eastern law school, presumably Harvard. The series is irresistibly entitled "The New Lawyers." The running characters are a crusty-but-benign ex-Supreme Court justice, presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba; there's a beautiful girl graduate student; and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners. The second one is called "The Amazon Squad." The running characters include a crusty-but-benign police lieutenant who's always getting heat from the commissioner; a hard-nosed, hard-drinking detective who thinks women belong in the kitchen; and the brilliant and beautiful young girl cop who's fighting the feminist battle on the force. Up next is another one of those investigative reporter shows. A crusty-but-benign managing editor who's always gett--
[Diana cuts her off]
New Study on Consumer Rationality
Cognitive psychology in decision-making is playing an increasing role in contract scholarship. As both parents and beer marketers can readily attest, people do not always act rationally. But they don't act entirely irrationally, either. Laboratory findings suggests that the way issues are framed plays a powerful role in decision-making.
How do the laboratory findings hold up in the real world? A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market, suggests that the effects of psychological framing may not be as powerful as they seem to be in the lab, but are nevertheless important. Here's the abstract:
Numerous laboratory studies find that minor nuances of presentation and description change behavior in ways that are inconsistent with standard economic models. How much do these context effect matter in natural settings, when consumers make large, real decisions and have the opportunity to learn from experience? We report on a field experiment designed to address this question. A South African lender sent letters offering incumbent clients large, short-term loans at randomly chosen interest rates. The letters also contained independently randomized psychological "features" that were motivated by specific types of frames and cues shown to be powerful in the lab, but which, from a normative perspective, ought to have no impact.
Consistent with standard economics, the interest rate significantly affected loan take-up. Inconsistent with standard economics, some of the psychological features also significantly affected take-up. The average effect of a psychological manipulation was equivalent to a one half percentage point change in the monthly interest rate.
Interestingly, the psychological features appear to have greater impact in the context of less advantageous offers and persist across different income and education levels. In short, even in a market setting with large stakes and experienced customers, subtle psychological features appear to be powerful drivers of behavior. The findings pose a challenge for the social sciences: they suggest that psychological nuance matters but may be inherently difficult to predict given the impact of context. Successful incorporation of psychological features into field studies is likely to prove a vital, but nontrivial, addition to the formation of more general theories on when, why, and how frames and cues influence important decisions.
January 11, 2006
Weekly Top Ten
Downloads slow down a good deal during the semester break, and few new papers get posted. Here are the top ten most-downloaded papers from the SSRN Journal of Contract and Commercial Law for the 60 days ending January 9. 2006.
1 One-Sided Contracts in Competitive Consumer Markets, Lucian Arye Bebchuk (Harvard) & Richard A. Posner (7th Circuit).
2 How Law Affects Lending, Rainer F.H. Haselmann (Leipzig-Business), Katharina Pistor (Columbia) & Vikrant Vig (Columbia-Business).
3 The Strategy of Boilerplate, Robert B. Ahdieh (Emory).
4 Beyond Reason and Rational Frogs: Intuitional Business Ethics in a Scientific World, Jeffrey M. Lipshaw (Indiana-Indianapolis).
5 Do Courts Matter? Rental Markets and the Law, Pablo Casas-Arce (Oxford-Economics) & Albert Saiz (Penn-Wharton).
6 Canadian Jurisprudence and the Uniform Application of the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, Peter Mazzacano (Osgoode Hall).
7 A Bridge, a Tax Revolt, and the Struggle to Industrialize: The Story and Legacy of Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co., Barak D. Richman (Duke), Jordi Weinstock (Duke) & Jason Mehta (Harvard).
8-t The Frontiers of Contract Law - Contract Formation and Mistake in Cyberspace - The Singapore Experience, Andrew Phang (Vienna U of Economics).
8-t Signals, Assent and Internet Contracting, Juliet Moringiello (Widener).
8-t The Return of the Twenty Bishops: Toward a Subjective Theory of Contract Formation, Lawrence M. Solan (Brooklyn).
Suit Proceeds Against Saatchi Exec
The intersection between contract law and the employee's duty of loyalty is going to get a thorough investigation in the upcoming suit by advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi against former exec Mike Burns. Saatchi claims that Burns violated both his contract and his fiduciary duties when he allegedly induced 17 agency staffers to leave the firm with him to start a new venture. Burns was the lead rep on Saatchi's General Mills account, and all of the 17 either worked on the General Mills account or had personal ties to Burns.
The judge apparently ruled that Burns' departure itself didn't violate the noncompete clause in his contract, but that his alleged piracy of other individuals might have done so.
Father of Expelled Girl Sues
The father of a ninth-grade girl expelled from a private Christian school for kissing a fellow female student is suing the school for breach of contract and invasion of privacy. The school rules provide that "any behavior, on campus or away, which indicates that a student has disregard for the spirit of the school standards" will justify a request to the student to withdraw. The father's lawyer says that language is too vague to cover the same-sex kissing episode.
Most of the claimed damages would seem to be for the tort claim, since the father is seeking $1 million.
Motor City Radio Listeners Sue Station
WDET-FM, a public radio station in Detroit, held an on-air fund-rasing drive in October. Six weeks later, it announced that some of the local music programs would be replaced with nationally syndicated shows like "Fresh Air" and "Car Talk."
It seems that seven of the station's listeners who pledged money during the fund-raising drive did not think the Motor City needed "Car Talk," or any of the other nationally syndicated programs. Instead, they wanted the local music programs to be continued. So, the radio listeners, part of Save Detriot Radio, brought a class action lawsuit on theories of fraud and breach of contract. According to the New York Times, the listeners claim that they were duped into contributing money to the station to continue programs that the station had already decided it was going to cancel.
Apparently, a similar lawsuit in New Mexico in the 1980's resulted in public hearings before the station made any programming changes.
[Meredith R. Miller]
January 10, 2006
Movsesian on Williston
If anyone ever does a Contract Law Hall of Fame, Samuel Williston will be one of the charter inductees. For a fascinating profile of the man and his lifelong battles with depression and personal problems, check out the piece by Hofstra's Mark Movsesian (left) in this issue of Harvard Magazine. There's a marvelous photo of Williston posing with the manuscript and notes for his monumental treatise.
We're Number 1,225!
According to Paul Caron, our colleague at TaxProf Blog and Maximum Leader of the Law Prof Blog Network, five of our network blogs -- including ContractsProf -- have made the list of top 15 legal blogs written by law professors. (Okay, it is a pretty narrow category, but still . . . .)
ContractsProf finished number 13 on the list, joining our colleagues Sentencing Law & Policy (4), TaxProf Blog (5), Leiter's Law School Reports (10), and BusinessLaw Prof (14). Given that the methodology didn't include some blogs that ought to have been listed, (including Larry Solum's popular Legal Theory Blog, you should take them with a grain of salt.
ContractsBlog is also apparently the 1,225th most popular blog in the known universe.
January 9, 2006
AALS Blogging Panel
The AALS unfortunately scheduled a panel on blogging at the same time as the excellent Section on Commercial Law meeting on Friday. If you're interested in what went on at the blogging panel (which featured Randy Barnett, Lawrence Solum, and Victor Fleischer), our colleague Paul Caron has this summary over on TaxProf Blog.
Abframoff Sues for Breach of Contract
Indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has reportedly sued the U.S. Congress for breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, claiming that he paid large sums of money to buy Congressional votes but many in Congress are reneging on those deals. "Can you imagine a country where you pay for a cup of coffee and it never arrives? Or shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a tune-up on your car only to find that nothing was actually done? Well, that's what the United States Congress is trying to pull on me, on all of us, right now."
"How could the federal government turn on me like that?" wonders Abramoff. "It's mine. I paid for it fair and square."
January 8, 2006
Yankee Contract for Sale
For those who collect contract memorabilia, a seller on eBay has an original 1919 baseball contract under which the minor league club in Toledo sells the contract of pitcher Paul Carpenter to the New York Yankees. What makes the contract interesting is that it's signed not only by Yanks owner Col. Jacob Ruppert, but by Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan, then an executive with Toldeo. Bresnahan is the guy who invented the shin guard. Sale ends Thursday.
Michael Jackson Sued by Vet
Michael Jackson's veterinarian has sued him for breach of contract, claiming that the pop star owes him $91,000 in past-due fees. Dr. Martin Dinnes is the "chief veterinarian" for Jackson's 2,700-acre Neverland, and is responsible for the "giraffes, elephants and orangutans" on the estate.