Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2020

Abstract

When should specific performance be available for breach of contract? This question has engaged generations of legal economists and philosophers, historians and comparativists. Yet none of these disciplines have provided a persuasive answer. This Article provides a normatively-attractive and conceptually-coherent account. Respect for the autonomy of the promisor’s future self explains why expectation damages are, and should be, the ordinary remedy for contract breach. Also, this same normative commitment to the contracting parties’ autonomy best justifies the “uniqueness exception,” where specific performance is typically awarded, and the personal services exclusion, where it is not. For the most part, the boundaries of specific performance track the common law’s underlying commitment to autonomy. But not entirely. There’s still work to be done, and this Article points the way with concrete doctrinal reforms that can better align specific performance with its animating principles.

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