On the Alienability of Legal Claims

83 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2004

See all articles by Michael Abramowicz

Michael Abramowicz

George Washington University Law School

Abstract

Courts have become increasingly skeptical about rules restricting plaintiffs' ability to sell legal claims, and legal commentators have argued that markets for claims would be efficient, moving claims to those who can prosecute them most efficiently. Claim sales intuitively might appear to present a clash of economic and philosophical arguments, with perceived efficiency benefits coming at the expense of societal commitments to values other than efficiency. In this Article, Professor Abramowicz argues that economic and philosophical arguments do point in opposite directions, but in the reverse directions from what one might expect. A range of philosophical and other noneconomic considerations, such as concerns about commodification, corrective justice, legal ethics, and procedural justice, pose no significant problems for claim sales. There is, however, a significant economic problem. Markets for legal claims face a particularly strong adverse selection effect, because a prospective purchaser must consider not only why the plaintiff wishes to dispose of the claim, but also why the plaintiff cannot obtain a better deal from the defendant. Thus, even a regime permitting alienation might result in very few claim sales, and many of those may be motivated by prospective inefficiencies, such as attempts to manipulate the path of legal doctrine. If, however, in some legal context plaintiffs managed to overcome this adverse selection problem, so that claim sales became the norm, the economic concern would be eliminated. But philosophical concerns would reemerge, as this Article shows by using a hypothetical mandatory alienation regime as a heuristic device.

Keywords: sale of legal claims

JEL Classification: K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Abramowicz, Michael B., On the Alienability of Legal Claims. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=537622

Michael B. Abramowicz (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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