UCL Faculty of Laws


Inaugural Lecture: Bad Bargains (Professor Paul Davies)

31 January 2019, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

bad bargains

The Current Legal Problems annual lecture series was established over sixty years ago.

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Inaugural Lecture

Speaker: Professor Paul Davies (Faculty of Laws, UCL)
Chair: Lord Sales
About the lecture:

It is often said that the courts will not save parties from bad bargains: as Lord Nottingham observed, even “the Chancery mends no man’s bargain”. Courts should be reluctant to develop the law in a way which would allow sophisticated commercial actors to escape (bad) bargains. However, little attention has been given to what is meant by a “bad bargain”, or why that might be significant. This lecture will analyse how parties seek to escape from bad bargains, and the reduced importance of the principle of caveat emptor. This analysis is particularly timely since in the current economic climate a number of long-term contracts have become especially disadvantageous to one party, and one consequence of Brexit is likely to be an increase in instances where one party tries to escape a bad bargain. Sympathy for the party which finds itself subject to a bad bargain has led to pressure on courts to find that an agreement is not binding; to expand the scope of the vitiating factors; to liberalise the principles of interpretation and rectification; and to revisit the difficult divide between contract, tort and unjust enrichment when awarding remedies. It will be argued that courts should not readily bow to these pressures, and that it should be very difficult to circumvent the contractual regime of damages.

About the speaker:

Paul was appointed to the Chair in Commercial Law in September 2017. He was previously a Fellow at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and before that a Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Paul has also worked in the Property and Trust Law Team at the Law Commission. He initially read Oriental Studies (Japanese) before studying Law at Downing College, Cambridge, and spent a year in Poitiers studying French Law.

Paul is interested in all areas of commercial law, and has written widely on private law more generally. He is the author of Accessory Liability (Hart Publishing, 2015; revised paperback edition, 2017), which won the main Inner Temple Book Prize in 2018, and was the joint second prize winner of the 2015 Society of Legal Scholars Peter Birks Book Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship. Paul is also a co-author of Equity and Trusts: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd ed, OUP, 2016 (with Graham Virgo)), the author of JC Smith’s The Law of Contract (2nd ed, OUP, 2018) and is one of the editors of Snell’s Equity.

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