Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
Last week, we noted Michael Dorelli and Kimberly Cohen's recent article in the Indiana Law Review on developments in contracts law in Indiana. This week, we will be summarizing some of the important cases discussed in that article.
East Porter County School Corporation v. Gough, Inc. is a pretty typical bid case. Gough, Inc. (Gough) submitted a bid of around $3 million to the East Porter County School Coporation (the County) on some additions, presumably to school buildings. Just after the deadline for the submission of bids, but likely before the bids were unsealed, Gough tried to withdraw its bid, claiming that its bid was the result of an inadvertent clerical error. One month later, the County awarded the contract to Gough. Gough's president notified the County that the bid was incorrect and stated that Gough would not accept the contract. Gough returned the contract to the County unsigned.
When the County tried to enforce the contract, Gough brought suit, seeking a declaration that its bid be rescinded and its bid bond released. The County counterclaimed, alleging breach of contract by both Gough and its bid bonding agency, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers). The trial court granted the Gough and Travelers summary judgment, citing a 1904 case that permitted excuse of a contractor's bid based on mistake.
The law in Indiana excuses bids based on mistakes in calculation or clerical errors but not based on errors in judgment. Gough's presidnet submitted an affidavit in which he stated that on the day that Gough submitted its bid, its total of the bids of its subcontractors and its own cost estimates came to just over $3.3 million. "For psychological reasons," Gough wanted to get the bid below $3.3 million, but they spoke of trying to get to 299 or 2998. They thus mistakenly wrote down a bid of $2.998 million, which they then arbitrarily cut down to $2,997,900, when they apparently intended $3,299,700. Gough then quickly realized that the error would result in a $200,000 loss on the project, so Gough attempted to pull the bid.
The Court of Appeals found that, as a result of the error, the minds of the parties never met and the County "would obtain an unconscionable advantage" as a result of Gough's mistake. Because Gough timely notified the County of the mistake, the County was not in any way harmed by its withdrawal of its bid. As a result, the Court ruled that the County had no right to enforce Gough's erroneous bid, nor did Traveler's have any obligation to pay its bid bond.
I have no problem with this result, but the "meeting of the minds" language strikes me as misplaced in this context. Many contracts professors dislike the phrase "meeting of the minds" because it suggests that subjective agreement on terms is what is required when the test for whether or not a contract formation is objective. Twenty bishops could attest to Gough's president's veracity and still he would be bound if a contract had actually been formed. But here no contract was formed because the bid was withdrawn before it was accepted. In this circumstance, courts should really only ask two questions. First, was the bid irrevocable? If so, Gough should bear the burden of its own mistake -- and the existence of the bond suggests that the parties have allocated the burden. If not, the second question is whether the bid was relied upon, and it was not. So really the case should turn on whether or not the bid was irrevocable and not on whether the parties "minds" met or on how the court categorizes Gough's mistake.
This is not to find fault with the Court in this case, which simply followed Indiana precedent. But the case nicely illustrates the difficulties in distinguishing between clerical or calculation errors and errors of judgment. Sure, Gough's principals made a clerical mistake reducing their bid by $330,000 when they meant to reduce it by only $30,000, but one could also argue that the decision to reduce the bid is a judgment, especially when one does so for "psychological reasons." Once they made the decision to reduce their bid, the fact that they committed a clerical error in carrying out that judgment is epiphenomenal.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Michael A. Dorelli & Kimberly L. Cohen, Recent Developments in Indiana Business and Contract Law, 46 Ind. L. Rev. 943 (2013) [we'll be mining this for blog fodder in the weeks to come]
Robert Downey, Edward K. Gross & Stephen T. Whelan, Leases, 68 Bus. Law. 1191 (2013)
Jennifer S. Martin, Sales, 68 Bus. Law. 1173 (2013) [more mining to do here]
And new in books
Most legal casebooks generally focus on the theoretical. Contract Law, however, covers legal and statutory theories as well as civil procedures, and the practice of law in everyday life. Therefore, the casebook gives first-year students valuable skills that they can use throughout their legal careers.
Contract Law is literally two textbooks in one and can be used for a full year of instruction. Therefore, it is ideal for law school courses in contracts. And, to re-emphasize, the text teaches students how to construct plaintiffs’ complaints, and defendants’ answers using common-law and UCC-related theories of recovery and affirmative defenses.
This Exam Pro consists of essay questions actually given by Contracts professors throughout the United States. Every question contains a detailed explanation, along with analytical steps explained in easy-to-understand, basic language, and a step-by-step guide on how to analyze each major issue. Both Professor “model” answers and student “actual” answers are provided to allow students to get a feel for all the issues that could have been discussed on some questions, and what is realistic for a student to actually answer under timed conditions. The Preface includes tips on how to take essay exams. A general “List of Issues” covered on each question is provided, so the student can decide whether or not to use a particular question given the course coverage in the student’s Contracts class. Similarly, an “Index of Issues” is provided so the student can easily find all the questions that deal with a particular substantive issue which allows for repetitive testing on a troublesome issue. Each answer includes cross-references to the applicable sections of the Restatement (Second) Contracts and the Uniform Commercial Code, and citations to the more important cases in Contracts law, allowing the student to easily match the subject matter of the question to his or her outline and class discussion. Cross-references are included in every answer to relevant portions of Sum & Substance: Quick Review of Contracts, allowing for easy reference if more substantive knowledge is either needed or desired.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Only one article this week:
But also a new book:
Contract Law and Contract Practice: Bridging the Gap Between Legal Reasoning and Commercial Expectation
By Catherine Mitchell
An oft-repeated assertion within contract law scholarship and cases is that a good contract law (or a good commercial contract law) will meet the needs and expectations of commercial contractors. Despite the prevalence of this statement, relatively little attention has been paid to why this should be the aim of contract law, how these 'commercial expectations' are identified and given substance, and what precise legal techniques might be adopted by courts to support the practices and expectations of business people. This book explores these neglected issues within contract law. It examines the idea of commercial expectation, identifying what expectations commercial contractors may have about the law and their business relationships (using empirical studies of contracting behaviour), and assesses the extent to which current contract law reflects these expectations. It considers whether supporting commercial expectations is a justifiable aim of the law according to three well-established theoretical approaches to contractual obligations: rights-based explanations, efficiency-based (or economic) explanations and the relational contract critique of the classical law. It explores the specific challenges presented to contract law by modern commercial relationships and the ways in which the general rules of contract law could be designed and applied in order to meet these challenges. Ultimately the book seeks to move contract law beyond a simple dichotomy between contextualist and formalist legal reasoning, to a more nuanced and responsive legal approach to the regulation of commercial agreements.
Catherine Mitchell is a Reader in Law at the University of Hull.
December 2013 308pp Hbk 9781849461214 RSP: £50 / €65
Discount Price: £40 / €52
Hart Publishing is delighted to offer you 20% discount.
Order Online in the US
If you would like to place an order you can do so through the Hart Publishing website (link below). To receive the discount please mention ref: ‘CONTRACTSPROFBLOG’ in the special instructions field. Please note that the discount will not be shown on your order but will be applied when your order is processed.
Order Online in the UK, EU and ROW
If you would like to place an order you can do so through the Hart Publishing website (link below). To receive the discount please type the reference ‘CONTRACTSPROFBLOG’ in the voucher code field and click ‘apply’.
UK, EU and ROW website: http://www.hartpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?ISBN=9781849461214
If you have any questions please contact Hart Publishing
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Telephone Number: 01865 517 530 Fax Number: 01865 510 710
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Friend of the blog, Steven Feldman (pictured), has recently published his critique of Richard R.W. Brooks and Alexander Stremitzer's Remedies on and off Contract, which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 2011. Feldman's piece, Rescission, Restitution, and the Principle of Fair Redress: A Response to Professors Brooks and Stremitzer, appeared in the Valparaiso Law Review earlier this year. Feldman characterizes Brooks and Stremitzer as arguing that current legal doctrine does not allow for rescission often enough and is too liberal in granting restitution. They believe that these approaches to damages are based on an exaggerated estimate of the threat to contract stabilitiy posed by rescission. They contend that parties would often bargain for broad rescission rights even if damages for breach were fully enforceable and costless to enforce. Greater rights of rescission, they contend, would result in more efficient outcomes because rational parties would negotiate price to avoid breach.
According to Feldman, Brooks and Stremitzer's argument is not based on a comprehensive survey of case law and relevant statutes. Rather, Feldman contends, "[t]heir legal analysis consists mainly of isolated references to the U.C.C.," the CISG the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment and the Restatement (Second) of Contracts. By contrast, Feldman surveys case law and finds that courts follow a principle of "fair redress" that permits equitable remedies rather than rigid formulas for calculating damages. Moreover, Brooks and Stremitzer's economic model ignores situational and relational considerations that often influence buyers' decisions to seek rescission or to breach.
Feldman's article sets out to show that existing precedent supports a status quo that adequately protects both buyers and sellers. Based on his review of the case law and statutory authority, Feldman argues:
- Courts are far more liberal in granting rescission than Brooks and Stremitzer suggest;
- case law interpreting UCC Sections 2-601 and 2-608 is "decidedly "pro-buyer, allowing buyers to reject goods and to revoke acceptance, both of which are species of rescission that Brooks and Stremitzer overlook;
- Brooks and Stremitzer ignore both federal statutes and regulations and state consumer protection laws that promote a broad right of consumer rescission;
- the doctrine of material breach has always been a porous barrier against buyer's rescission rights;
- merchants often allow customers to rescind in order to maintain good customer relations;
- courts often allow buyers to rescind as an equitable remedy that accords with the principle of fair redress;
- while Brooks and Stremitzer contend that allowing buyers to recover in restitution overcompensates them, the election of remedies doctrine generally prevents duplicate recovery for the promisee;
- allowing both rescission and damages do not create a windfall but simply make the injured party whole; and
- allowing redress in excess of the contract price in cases such as Boomer v. Muir, 24 P.2d 570 (Cal. Dst. Ct. App. 1933), has a sound legal, normative and economic basis.
In the concluding sections of the article, Feldman contends that Brooks and Stremitzer's approach neglects what Feldman terms "the moral imperative " that would permit recovery in excess of losses on the contract in order to protect the innocent victims of legal wrongs. He then proceeds to attack their rational choice model by reminding readers of numerous criticisms of rational choice theory, especially of those sounding in relational contracts theory.
Feldman has undertaken a fundamental and multi-pronged critique of a very prominent article on contracts remedies that ought to be be considered by any scholar interested in Brooks and Stremitzer's model.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
This week's installment includes a new publication by one of our own. Jeffrey Harrison provides an introduction to his article in a recent post.
Shawn J. Bayern & Melvin A. Eisenberg, The Expectation Measure and Its Discontents, 2013 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1
M. Neil Browne & Lauren Biksacky, Unconscionability and the Contingent Assumptions of Contract Theory, 2013 Mich. St. L. Rev. 211-255
Benjamin P. Cooper, Taking Rules Seriously: The Rise of Lawyer Rules as Substantive Law and the Public Policy Exception in Contract Law, 35 Cardozo L. Rev. 267 (2013)
Jeffrey L. Harrison, A Nihilistic View of the Efficient Breach, 2013 Mich. St. L. Rev. 167
Manuel Willington, Hold up under Costly Litigation and Imperfect Courts of Law, 29 J.L. Econ. & Org. 1023 (2013)
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Christopher M. Foulds, For Whom Should the Corporation Be Sold? Diversified Investors and Efficient Breach in Omnicare v. NCS, 38 J. Corp. L. 733 (2013)
Sean J. Griffith, The Omnipresent Specter of Omnicare, 38 J. Corp. L. 753 (2013)
Hon. J. Travis Laster, Omnicare's Silver Lining, 38 J. Corp. L. 795 (2013)
Brian J.M. Quinn, Omnicare: Coercion and the New Unocal Standard, 38 J. Corp. L. 835 (2013)
Megan W. Shaner, Revisiting Omnicare: What Does Its Status 10 Years Later Tell Us? 38 J. Corp. L. 865 (2013)
Hon. E. Norman Veasey, Ten Years after Omnicare: The Evolving Market for Deal Protection Devices, 38 J. Corp. L. 891 (2013)
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I happen to agree with the recent New York Times article on the usefulness of legal research. As many will recall, the basic idea was that a great deal of what is published is only that -- it exists in print and is largely unread or impractical. Part of the problem is that writing is a bit like hazing. Young people must do it to join the fraternity even if they have little new to say. Another problem is the actor and audience problem. Law professors appear are both. As writers they are the actors and as readers they are the audience -- the only audience. So they play their part and then rush back to the audience to applaud the "acts" of others. In these instances the work may be so theoretical that it is only of interest to very few, if any, and perhaps useful to no one at all. This is related to or the same as the skyhook problem as described by Monroe Freedman. As I understand it, work that is too theoretical and too burdened by assumptions is comparable to engineers talking about the impossible. Monroe H. Freedman, A Critique of Philosophizing About Lawyers' Ethics," 25 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 91 (2012).
That was how an Article by Daniel Markovits and Alan Schwartz, "The Myth of the Efficient Breach: New Defenses of the Expectancy Interest," 97 Va. L. Rev. 1939 (2011), struck me. Why write anything further about the efficient breach? Of course, as always the joke was on me. I immediately set out to write yet another article about efficient breach which essentially says it does not exist, and Markovits and Schwartz are covering ground that is in large part both old and irrelevant. And with that I became the actor, the audience, and an actor acting out the roles of the actor an audience. I think this means my article, "A Nihilistic View of the Efficient Breach" 2013 Mich St.L. Rev. 167 , was a skyhook for skyhooks. If any of this interest to you and I hope not. Here is the link.
I realized why we do much of our writing. It's fun and we are addicted to ideas. It's a pretty good job! But are we at times too self indulgent?
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Alan S. Kaplinsky & Mark J. Levin, Consumer Financial Services Azrbitration: What Does the Future Hold after Concepcion? 8 J. Bus. & Tech. L. 345 (2013)
Nicole F. Munro & Peter L. Cockrell, Drafting Arbitration Agreements: A Practitioner's Guide for Consumer Credit Contracts, 8 J. Bus. & Tech. L. 363 (2013)
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Eli Bukspan, Trust and the Triangle Expectation Model in Twenty-First Century Contract Law, 11 DePaul Bus. & Com. L.J. 379 (2013)
Veronica J. Finkelstein, Dollars and Horse Sense: Why Prudent Buyers and Sellers Should Account for Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code in Their Equine Sales Contracts, 5 Ky. J. Equine, Agri., & Nat. Resources L. 181 (2012-2013)
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Unconscionability and the Contingent Assumptions of Contract Theory, 2013 Mich. St. L. Rev. 211 (2013), by Dr. M. Neil Browne and Lauren Biksacky, argues that basic assumptions of liberal contract theory – for example, that contracts are made by rational and informed parties – don’t hold. Therefore, courts should find more contracts unconscionable.
This short article would be a nice primer for law students on basic liberal contract theory, especially in conjunction with some Judge Posner readings. The authors argue that people often yield to irrational motives. They get in bar fights. They have road rage. They buy books on feng shui. Judge Posner might respond that the human rationality economists speak of is that of pigeons or rats, not angels. Dr. Browne, himself an economist, seems to take exception to that conception of human beings.
The article argues courts can do better than simply making people keep their ratty promises. Courts can allow people to be their best, most-informed selves by invalidating “irrational” promises made under distorting influences like advertising and cognitive biases. Courts can and should step in like adults over wayward children and guide them toward eudaimonia.
Yet the article notes that despite research showing people are often irrational and ill-informed, courts are not finding more contracts unconscionable. Why? The article doesn’t answer, but the reason is probably that to do so seems unworkable. If human irrationality were grounds for invalidating a contract, how many contracts would be secure? The law tends to be a great guardian of the status quo, and apparently some people like books about feng shui.
[Image by Vicky TGAW]
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Theodoros Chiou, On Royalties and Transfers without (Monetary) Consideration -- Looking for the "Magic Formula" for Assessing the Validity of Renumeration Clauses of Copyright Transfers under French Copyright Law. 44 IIC: Int'l Rev. Intell. Prop. & Competition L. 585 (2013)
Louise Longdin & Phen Hoon Lim, Inexhaustible Distribution Rights for Copyright Owners and the Foreclosure of Secondary Markets for Used Software, 44 IIC: Int'l Rev. Intell. Prop. & Competition L. 541 (2013)
Michael Pressman, The Two-Contract Approach to Liquidated Damages: A New Framework for Exploring the Penalty Clause Debate, 7 Va. L. & Bus. Rev. 651 (2013)
Thomas J. Lilly, Jr. Participation in Litigation as a Waiver of the Contractual Right to Arbitrate: Toward a unified Theory. 92 Neb. L. Rev. 86 (2013)
Andrea M. Matwyshyn, The Law of the Zebra. 28 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 155-225 (2013)
Debra Pogrund Stark, Jessica M. Choplin & Eileen Linnabery, Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices that Enable Them: An Empirical Analysis. 46 Ind. L. Rev. 797-847 (2013) [and check out Kenneth Ching's review of this article here]
George G. Triantis, Improving Contract Quality: Modularity, Technology, and Innovation in Contract Design. 18 Stan. J.L. Bus. & Fin. 177 (2013)
William Wood, It Wasn't an Accident: The Tribal Sovereign Immunity Story, 62 Am. U. L. Rev. 1587 (2013)