June 2009 Vol. 107 No. 8 THE REVIEW

Fault at the Contract-Tort Interface

Roy Kreitner

The formative period in the history of contract and tort (in the second half of the nineteenth century) may be characterized by the cleavage of contract and tort around the concept of fault: tort modernized by moving from strict liability to a regime of “no liability without fault,” while contract moved toward strict liability. The opposing attitudes toward fault are puzzling at first glance. Nineteenth-century scholars of private law offered explanations for the opposition, reasoning that alternative ideas about fault account for the different character of state involvement in enforcing private law rights: tort law governs liabilities imposed by law on nonconsenting members of society (and thus, it should limit itself to fault-based conduct), while contract law governs bargained-for duties and liabilities of parties who exercise freedom of contract (and thus, liability voluntarily undertaken need not consider fault). These theories are problematic, especially because they cannot offer a complete account of contract or tort. Tort retains too much strict liability to be thought of as a regime of no liability without fault, and contract has too many fault-based rules to be conceived of through strict liability. While these justifications for the distinction between contract and tort were questioned in ensuing generations, they still structure much of the debate over the current boundary between contract and tort.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Fall Submission Season

MLR’s Articles Office will open its fall submission season on Monday, August 18!  The Articles...

The Ninth Circuit's Treatment of Sexual Orientation: Defining “Rational Basis Review with Bite”

On February 10, Nevada's Democratic attorney general decided to stop defending the state's constitutional...

Inhibiting Intrastate Inequalities: A Congressional Approach to Ensuring Equal Opportunity to Finance Public Education

The United States has exhibited a strong commitment to public education throughout its history. The local...

War Is Governance: Explaining the Logic of the Laws of War from a Principal-Agent Perspective

What is the purpose of the international law on armed conflict, and why would opponents bent on destroying...

Tariffication of the Coastwise Trade Laws

The coastwise trade laws prohibit foreign vessels and mariners from transporting goods or passengers...
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List