Behavioural Approaches to Contract and Tort

Programme Directors: Prof. dr P. Mascini, Prof. dr Michael Faure LL.M., dr Pieter Desmet and Prof. S.D. Lindenbergh LL.M.

People think, decide, and act, and so do institutions and corporations (be it in a slightly more complex way). By thinking, deciding, and acting, we display behaviour, and in private law, behaviour is relevant in more than one respect.

At times, legislatures have preconceived ideas about behaviour and how private parties will respond to legislative intervention. For example, a legislature may enact specific legislation, submitting directors of corporations to fault-based liability in the event of insolvency of the corporation, assuming that this will give directors the incentive to take appropriate care in running the corporation's affairs. But will they do so in practice? Are there any behavioural side effects such as overzealous risk avoidance or an increase in directors’ salary demands?

To give a clearer picture of the scope of this research, a short description of the work of some of our researchers is given below.

 

Professor Xandra Kramer holds an endowed chair in European Civil Procedure.

Her research focuses on international litigation and conflict of laws in contracts and torts. She is interested in the cross-roads between economic efficiency and procedural fairness, the actual functioning of civil justice systems and its impact on litigants, transnational complex litigation and enforcement and EU harmonisation. Her research combines doctrinal legal research, comparative law, policy-oriented and (qualitative) empirical research. She acquired a research grant (Vidi) from the Dutch organisation for scientific research (NWO) for a project on ‘Securing quality in cross-border enforcement’. She was project leader of several studies for the Dutch Ministry of Justice on mass litigation and debt collection and for the European Parliament and the codification of European private international law.

 

Marco Fabbri - Experiments in the Lab and in the Field

FabbriMarco’s research interests focus on behavioural and experimental law and economics and micro econometrics. In his works he uses experiments - either field, natural or laboratory ones - in order to empirically investigate a wide range of policy issues. Marco is developing two main research projects at BACT. The first one focuses on the use of lotteries for the development of policies against free-riding. More specifically, he is currently estimating the effect of a zero-cost policy intervention against free-riding in public transportations by means of a field experiment on a bus company. The second project involves laboratory experiments in order to test a recent evolutionary theory of property rights.

Before joining BACT, Marco obtained a PhD in Law and Economics (University of Bologna, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Hamburg University, 2014, cum laude), an MSc. in Economics (University of Bologna, 2011, cum laude), a BSc. in Law and Economics (University of Bologna, 2009, cum laude) and a degree in Philosophy (University of Trento, 2006, cum laude). He has been a visiting student at Nova University Lisbon (2008), at University of California Santa Cruz (2009\2010) and a visiting researcher at University of California Berkeley (2014).

 

Chris Reinders Folmer - How to compensate effectively

Many legal domains rely on financial damages or compensations to redress the harm that follows from violations. But in fact, little is known of the actual effectiveness of such restitutions. Are monetary compensations an effective means of redressing victims’ harm? And how much should one compensate to be effective? These are the primary questions that my research addresses. Public beliefs tend to state that victims primarily desire money, and that more money equals greater satisfaction (no doubt inspired by the US “claim culture”). Our research, however, refutes this idea. While victims may value compensation, a greater sum does not mean greater satisfaction. Moreover, our findings show that victims also have important immaterial needs in the aftermath of violations, which compensations alone may not redress: rather, intangible restitutions – like apologies – can considerably enhance victims’ satisfaction, and bolster the impact of compensation. Our research thereby points the way toward legislation that is more in tune with victims’ needs, and more effective at redressing them.