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A Critical Assessment of the Empiricism in the Restatement of Consumer Contract Law

Georgetown University Law Center, 2018

57 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Feb 2018

Gregory Klass

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: February 2018

Abstract

The draft Restatement of the Law of Consumer Contracts includes a quantitative study of judicial decisions concerning businesses’ online privacy policies, which it cites in support of a claim that most courts treat privacy policies as contracts. This article reports an attempt to replicate that study. Using the Restatement data, this study was unable to replicate its numerical findings. This study found in the data fewer relevant decisions, and a lower proportion of decisions supporting the Restatement position. This study also found little support for the claim that there is a clear trend recognizing enforcing privacy policies as contracts, and none for the claim that those decisions have been more influential. A qualitative analysis of the decisions in the dataset reveals additional issues. The Restatement study’s numerical results obscure the many judgment calls needed to code the decisions, and hide factors that reduce the persuasive power of the decisions it relies on. These results point to the importance of transparency and replication in empirical caselaw studies. They also suggest that the closed nature of the Restatement process is perhaps ill suited to producing reliable large-scale quantitative caselaw studies

Keywords: contract law, consumer contracts, privacy law, privacy policies, empirical legal studies, quantitative caselaw studies

Suggested Citation

Klass, Gregory, A Critical Assessment of the Empiricism in the Restatement of Consumer Contract Law (February 2018). Georgetown University Law Center, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3001212 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3001212

Gregory Klass (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/klass-gregory.cfm

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