Resolving Lawsuits with a Decisive Oath: An Economic Analysis

38 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2024

See all articles by Metin M. Cosgel

Metin M. Cosgel

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics

Thomas J. Miceli

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics

Emre Özer

University of Connecticut

Date Written: March 1, 2024

Abstract

The decisive oath is an interesting but little-known element in some legal proceedings, mostly in civil law traditions. It is different from ordinary (testimonial) oaths that are routinely administered to witnesses at trial with the aim of eliciting only truthful testimony, but which are of dubious value in achieving that end. By contrast, a decisive oath can end a lawsuit in cases where the plaintiff has no evidence. We use a simple economic model of litigation to examine the impact of the decisive oath in resolving lawsuits. To test the implications of the model, we use data from the early nineteenth century Ottoman courts to examine the empirical relationship between the stakes of the case, religious status of defendants, and litigation outcomes. The results show that as the stakes of a case increased: (1) resolution by evidence-based trial or the oath option were both more likely than settlement; (2) the plaintiff was less likely to request an oath from the defendant, with an interaction effect that was also negative and even greater for religious defendants; and (3) the defendant was more likely to take the oath, with an interaction effect that was negative for religious defendants, which offset or reversed the common positive effect. Our analysis contributes both to the theoretical literature on the economics of dispute resolution, and to the historical literature on the role of decisive oaths in resolving legal disputes, especially in Islamic societies and civil law traditions.

Keywords: Decisive oath, law, dispute resolution, legal procedure, litigation, settlement, trial, evidence, lying, Ottoman law

JEL Classification: D91, K10, K20, K40, N45, P48, Z12

Suggested Citation

Cosgel, Metin M. and Miceli, Thomas J. and Özer, Emre, Resolving Lawsuits with a Decisive Oath: An Economic Analysis (March 1, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4744563 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4744563

Metin M. Cosgel (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics ( email )

365 Fairfield Way, U-1063
Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

Thomas J. Miceli

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics ( email )

365 Fairfield Way, U-1063
Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States
860-486-5810 (Phone)
860-486-4463 (Fax)

Emre Özer

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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