Samuel L. Bray
UCLA School of Law
Cornell Law Review, Vol. 97, 2012
UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 11-17
It is a familiar ideal that the remedy should fit the wrong — this wrong, by this wrongdoer, against this victim. Modern legal systems ordinarily pursue this kind of fit, at least in civil cases, by tailoring the remedy case by case. There is an alternative, though, which is for a legal system to announce in advance exactly what the remedy will be for all violations of a legal rule. This Article analyzes that alternative, and it offers a theory for when remedies should be announced.
Announcing has important social benefits. First, announcing leads to greater equality because what a successful litigant recovers is not affected by her race, gender, or other characteristics. Second, announcing produces greater compliance with legal rules because it assures the public that remedies are not being unfairly manipulated. Third, announcing reduces the “costs of telling.” When remedies are decided case by case, a plaintiff’s recovery depends on how successfully she tells her story. This telling has personal costs, such as impaired hedonic adaptation, that are avoided when remedies are announced.
In achieving these benefits, announcing does not operate as a unitary phenomenon. Sometimes it performs a cost-saving function, sometimes a communication function, and sometimes a precommitment function. Distinguishing among these functions is critical to proper use of announcing. Other important considerations include the interplay of rights and remedies, the need for future-proofing, and the way announcing one remedy can affect the entire system of remedies.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: remedies, fines, statutory damages, equality, perception of equality, compliance, costs of telling, hedonic adaptation, information costs, precommitment, optimal deterrence
JEL Classification: K00, K19, K40
Date posted: December 3, 2011 ; Last revised: September 25, 2012