Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

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Law & Economics Working Papers


Several doctrines of contract law allow courts to strike down excessively one-sided terms. A large literature explored which terms should be viewed as excessive, but a related question is often ignored—what provision should replace the vacated excessive term? This paper begins by suggesting that there are three competing criteria for a replacement provision: (1) the most reasonable term; (2) a punitive term, strongly unfavorable to the overreaching party; and (3) the maximally tolerable term. The paper explores in depth the third criterion—the maximally tolerable term—under which the excessive term is reduced merely to the highest level that the law considers tolerable. This solution preserves the original bargain to maximal permissible extent, and yet brings it within the tolerable range. The paper demonstrates that this criterion, which received no prior scholarly notice, is quite prevalent in legal doctrine, and that its adoption is based on powerful conceptual and normative underpinnings.



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