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Disclaimers of Contractual Liability and Voluntary Obligations

Pratt, M. (2014). Disclaimers of Contractual Liability and Voluntary Obligations. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 51(3), Forthcoming.

Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 53/2014

16 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2014 Last revised: 4 Nov 2014

Michael G. Pratt

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 23, 2014

Abstract

Contractual obligations are traditionally regarded as voluntary. A voluntary obligation is one that can be acquired only if one intends to acquire it. This traditional understanding finds doctrinal expression in the requirement that contracting parties intend to create legal relations. It has, however, been doubted that the Anglo-Canadian law of contract insists on this requirement. Skeptics argue that cases ostensibly decided on the basis of such a requirement are better explained otherwise. In this paper I invoke the legal force of contractual disclaimers to show that contractual obligations are indeed voluntary. When parties to an agreement purport to exclude it from the reach of the law by expressly disavowing an intention to bind themselves legally, they have issued a disclaimer. An unambiguous disclaimer will preclude an agreement from being enforced as a contract. Contractual obligations are thus “disclaimer-sensitive”. I argue that this striking feature of contractual obligations can be plausibly explained only if contractual obligations are voluntary.

Keywords: contract theory, voluntary obligation, intention, disclaimer

JEL Classification: K00, K12, K39

Suggested Citation

Pratt, Michael G., Disclaimers of Contractual Liability and Voluntary Obligations (July 23, 2014). Pratt, M. (2014). Disclaimers of Contractual Liability and Voluntary Obligations. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 51(3), Forthcoming.; Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 53/2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2467717

Michael Gordon Pratt (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 K7L3N6
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://law.queensu.ca/faculty-research/faculty-directory/michael-pratt

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