To Err is Human
Alleviating Mistakes: Reversal and Forgiveness for Flawed Perceptions. By E. Allan Farnsworth. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004. Pp. xiv, 216. $95.
There are many kinds of mistakes. One kind—a rational, well-intended act or decision resulting in unanticipated, negative consequences—was the focus of Allan Farnsworth’s previous foray into the realm of legal angst. Another kind—an act or decision prompted by an inaccurate, incomplete, or uninformed mental state and resulting in unanticipated, negative consequences—is the subject of the present book.
Like its predecessor, Alleviating Mistakes does not confine itself to contract law, Farnsworth’s home turf; it explores criminal, tort, restitution, and other areas of substantive law as well. As such, it paints on too large a canvas to capture its entirety in these relatively few pages. I will try to trace the outlines of the discussion, rearrange and synthesize elements to make the tableau easier to comprehend, and enhance certain aspects with supplemental material—all the while understanding that, just as a description of a painting is no substitute for seeing the original, this review is no substitute for reading Farnsworth’s book.