Bayesian Contractual Interpretation
Yale Law School
Journal of Legal Studies, Forthcoming
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 202
Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 401
Courts seeking the most likely intent of contracting parties should interpret contracts according to Bayes’ Rule. The best interpretation of a contract reflects both the prior likelihood (base rate) of a pair of contracting parties having a given intention as well as the probability that the contract would be written as it is given that intention. If the base rate of the intention associated with the simplest reading of the contract is low, then Bayes’ Rule implies that the simplest reading is not necessarily the interpretation of the contract that most likely captures the parties’ intentions. The Bayesian framework explains when default rules should be more or less “sticky” and helps define the appropriate role of boilerplate language in contractual interpretation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: contract interpretation, default rules, gap filling
JEL Classification: K12
Date posted: January 26, 2010 ; Last revised: February 19, 2010
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