The Liability of Judges for Wrongful Imprisonment

By Samuel Beswick, Assistant Professor of Law, Peter A. Allard School of Law, The University of British Columbia. Last month, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Federal Court of Australia each gave judgments on lawsuits against sitting judges for abusing their contempt-of-court power. The US case arose after an Ohio Municipal … Read more

Retroactive Rights of Action

By Samuel Beswick, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, The University of British Columbia I recently suggested on Balkinization that a storm seems to be brewing concerning the place of non-retroactivity doctrine (also called the doctrine of “prospective overruling”) in federal law. Non-retroactivity doctrine attempts to define the temporal scope of novel judgments … Read more

Chang & Smith – Convergence and Divergence in Systems of Property Law

Post by Henry Smith Yun-chien Chang and I have a paper out on SSRN about comparative property law. We differentiate between aspects of property law that are structural versus those that are stylistic and between those that are more integrated into the law and those that are more detachable.  We derive some predictions for cross-linguistic … Read more

Faulty Facades and Product Liability — Samuel Beswick

Post by Samuel Beswick, Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, SJD candidate, Harvard Law School

* At the outset I should disclose that I had a hand in drafting the plaintiffs’ claim as a solicitor at Meredith Connell, New Zealand, in 2012/13.

Although the paradigm case of a tort suit against a product manufacturer involves a claim of personal injury caused by the manufacturer’s allegedly defective product, there is a wealth of litigation concerning products whose defects do not pose a risk of personal injury. For example, currently progressing through the District Court of Minnesota is a class-action product liability lawsuit, which consolidates claims arising in eight states against James Hardie Building Products Inc. in respect of its allegedly defective Hardiplank cladding product. The plaintiffs contend that Hardiplank fails prematurely by allowing moisture ingress, which causes damage to underlying building structures and adjoining property. Their claims sound in negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, and breach of consumer protection legislation. The plaintiffs might find some reassurance in last Friday’s decision of the Supreme Court of New Zealand: Carter Holt Harvey Limited v. Minister of Education [2016] NZSC 95. 

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Party Autonomy to Choose a Forum: Philosophical and Historical Justification — Milana Karayanidi

Student post: Milana Karayanidi

On March 18-19, the Young Comparativists Committee (YCC) of the American Society of Comparative Law (ASCL) hosted its fifth annual global conference at Tulane University Law School. Many scholars presented their papers relating to teaching and writing in comparative law, and more than 100 scholars from 80 countries attended. At the conference, I presented my work on Normative View of Party Autonomy to Choose a Forum in a Comparative Perspective. My paper emphasized the unprecedented rate of recognition of forum selection clauses in international civil and commercial transactions. I discussed theoretical justifications of the principle of party autonomy in choosing jurisdiction, drawing upon Kantian ideas of individual autonomy, non-instrumentalist private law theory accounts, and the increasing dominance of contractual principles within the modern law of civil procedure. In addition, I examined the reasons for limiting party autonomy in view of considerations of equality and certain public interests. Furthermore, I examined the evolution of party autonomy to choose a forum within the national systems of the U.S., Germany and Russia. I argued that some of the rationales behind the historical developments that led to party autonomy recognition in these national systems can be used to justify party autonomy in international dispute resolution.

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Defences in Unjust Enrichment, Book Review — Yotam Kaplan

Post by Yotam Kaplan, Private Law Fellow, Harvard Law School

Defences in Unjust Enrichment, edited by Andrew Dyson, James Goudkamp and Frederick Wilmot-Smith, is the recently published second volume in an ongoing series, Hart Studies in Private Law: Essays on Defences. The first volume covered defenses in tort law, and the remaining two volumes will treat defenses in contract law and equity. The current volume offers essays by some of the world’s leading scholars, and a memorable note by Lord Reed of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This is a welcome addition to unjust enrichment scholarship, as the study of defenses (and the change of position defense in particular) has been central to the development of this area of law in recent years. 

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What Commonwealth Jurists Can Learn from the New Private Law — Malcolm Lavoie

Post by guest blogger, Malcolm Lavoie, University of Alberta Faculty of Law

It is impossible to explain the “new private law” to non-American jurists without first describing a little bit of history: the rise of legal realism in the 20th century, with its hostility to formal doctrine, and the subsequent emphasis the American legal academy has placed on looking beyond private law doctrine to understand what is really going on, in economic, political, or other terms. As alluded to by Henry Smith in a recent post, the dominance of “external” approaches to law in private law scholarship has been a uniquely American phenomenon. In civil law jurisdictions, as well as in the Commonwealth, private law scholarship has retained its focus on legal doctrine, though it is sometimes complemented by functionalist approaches of various stripes. If the central aim of the “new private law” is to encourage approaches to scholarship that “take law seriously”, one might rightly ask what it has to offer to jurists from, say, England and the Commonwealth, where scholars never really stopped taking law seriously.

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The New Private Law – the View from Germany — Henry Smith

Post by Henry Smith

The Alster

This summer I spent a month visiting the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Private Law, in the group headed by Prof. Reinhard Zimmermann.  It was an enjoyable and productive visit, and it prompts me to raise a comparative issue on this blog.  In addition to the similarities and differences between common and civil law, which are sometimes overstated, there is a big difference between American and German private law scholarship, which is reflected in the law itself.  

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