59 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2012 Last revised: 30 Apr 2013
Date Written: August 10, 2012
"First in, first out" (FIFO) is an allocation principle, whereby resources are allocated to interested parties in their order of entry. FIFO and its close relatives, "first come, first served" and "first-in-time, first-in-right," have numerous legal applications. These range from traditional private law disputes concerning ownership, secured transactions, and nuisances, through more extensive allocations, as in the cases of employees’ seniority benefits, mass torts, and military discharge, all the way to social and organizational practices regulated by law, such as organ allocation policies, event ticket sales, and data transfers over the internet. Yet although FIFO is an omnipresent and overarching principle in law, it has never been recognized or analyzed as such in legal literature.
The Article aims to fill this surprising theoretical gap. Its purpose and novelty are threefold. First, it constructs an innovative and comprehensive theoretical framework — integrating fairness and efficiency — for assessing FIFO’s role in resource allocation. Second, the Article highlights the prevalence of FIFO in law, by analyzing and critically evaluating its role in a wide array of legal contexts through this theoretical prism. Third, it substantiates a jurisprudentially provocative thesis: while FIFO can be similarly applied in numerous contexts, it has no consistent set of justifications for all applications. Its rationalization in law must be highly varied and context-specific. The Article’s seminal contributions provide a novel and robust foundation for numerous future projects, theoretical and empirical alike.
Keywords: FIFO, first in first out, first in time first in right, first come first served, queue, tort law, administrative law, bankruptcy law, communications law, comparative law, employment, jurisprudence, law and economics, law and technology, psychology
JEL Classification: K00, K11, K12, K13, K22, K23, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation