Category Archives: Legal History

Akey and Appel, ‘The Limits of Limited Liability: Evidence from Industrial Pollution’

Abstract We study how parent liability for subsidiary environmental cleanup costs affects industrial pollution and production. Our empirical setting exploits a landmark Supreme Court case that strengthened limited liability protection for parents with subsidiaries located in the jurisdiction of lower courts that previously adopted weaker standards. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we find that increased liability […]

Victor Goldberg, ‘A Note on Victoria Laundry

Abstract In Victoria Laundry v Newman, Asquith LJ claimed that the headnote in Hadley v Baxendale was ‘definitely misleading’ noting that had it been accurate, the decision would have been decided the other way. In this note, I argue that the headnote was not misleading and, even if it were, his conclusion did not follow. […]

Amir Licht, ‘Lord Eldon Redux: Information Asymmetry, Accountability and Fiduciary Loyalty’

Abstract This article investigates the development of accountability and fiduciary loyalty as an institutional response to information asymmetries in agency relations, especially in firm-like settings. Lord Eldon articulated the crucial role of information asymmetries in opportunistic behaviour in the early 19th century, but its roots are much older. A 13th-century trend towards direct farming of […]

‘HLS Private Law Workshop; Maureen Brady, From Rocks to Rods: The history and theory of metes and bounds demarcation’

“In the most recent Private Law Workshop, Professor Maureen Brady presented her fascinating historical study of the development of metes and bounds demarcation in property law in pre-Revolution New Haven. New England colonies mandated land recording at least from the early decades of the Seventeenth Century. But these requirements did not specify that the recording […]

Donal Nolan, ‘Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (1991)’

Abstract This chapter considers the landmark decision in Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310 concerning liability for psychiatric injury, or ‘nervous shock’. Alcock is the single most important English authority on liability for nervous shock, since although its implications for so-called ‘primary victims’ and rescuers may have been diluted […]

Donal Nolan, ‘Hongkong Fir Shipping Co Ltd v Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the Hongkong Fir (1961)’

Abstract This chapter discusses the decision of the Court of Appeal in The Hongkong Fir, one of the most important English contract cases of the 20th century. In this analysis of the Hongkong Fir case I argue that close consideration of the case law, coupled with an appreciation of the historical background, reveals certain flaws […]

‘Langdell, formalism, and realism at Harvard’

“Here’s a video of the session from a couple of weeks ago as part of the H[arvard] L[aw] S[chool] bicentennial. Opening remarks about Langdell are by John Goldberg (Harvard), who is followed by Catherine Wells (Boston College), me, Anthony Sebok (Cardozo), and Henry Smith (Harvard) …” (more, video) [Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports, 22 November]

Evelyn Atkinson, ‘Creating the Reasonable Child: Risk, Responsibility, and the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine’

Abstract In common law, trespassers could not sue for injuries. In the early 1870s, however, courts exempted child trespassers injured by industrial machinery from this rule. The development of the hotly contested ‘attractive nuisance’ doctrine illustrates turn-of-the-twentieth-century debates about how to allocate the risk of injury from industrial accidents, which linked responsibility to the capacity […]

‘Happy birthday, Statute of Marlborough!’

“Earlier this month, we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter, Magna Carta’s little sibling. It inspired a new Tree Charter, with accompanying events ranging from bike rides to pole launches. Today, we commemorate the Statute of Marlborough. At 750 years old, issued on 19 November 1267, it’s one of the the oldest pieces […]

‘HLS Private Law Workshop; Lisa Bernstein, Revisiting the Maghribi Traders (Again)’

“Avner Greif’s study of Maghribi Jewish traders in the eleventh century is a seminal work in the literature on private ordering. In a couple of highly influential articles, Greif documented how this group of merchants created elaborate trading networks across the Islamic Mediterranean. Greif argued that the Maghribi formed a close-knit ‘coalition’ that could eschew […]