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Contract and Comparative Law Dissertation Topics

1606 words (6 pages) Law Dissertation Topic

3rd Oct 2019 Law Dissertation Topic Reference this In-house law team

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK LawInternational LawEU Law

Contract law is one of the most fundamental topics to engage with should you wish to learn about the law, as it seeps into almost all other areas. Information covered under this topic heading includes the structure of contracts and how particular terms etc., must be conveyed to be legally effective; and, the various elements required to actually create a binding contract.

We have listed for you below 10 dissertation topics and ideas on contract and comparative law. Please feel free to use this information to point you in the right direction.

Example Dissertation Topics & Ideas

1. Does Consideration have a place in 21st Century Contract law? An examination of whether Consideration should be replaced with a much more adequate concept of Contractual Intention:

This dissertation topic will explore consideration from Stilk v Myrick (1809) 2 Camp 317 to Williams v Roffrey Bros & Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd [1991] 1 QB 1. The purpose of this exploration is to determine the effectiveness of consideration, drawing upon the civil law system of pacta sunta servanda and the Principles of European Contract Law (PECL). It will then consider the concept of intention in English law tracing the development from Balfour v Balfour [1919] 2 KB 571 to determine if a more sufficient concept of intention will be more appropriate for 21st Century Contract Law.

2. Is the concept of Agency in English contract law sufficient for the growing globalisation of commercial transactions?

Agency in English contract law is a significantly complex subject, which makes it difficult to reconcile with the Commercial Agents (Council Directive) Regulations 1993. This is due to the Regulations being based upon the civil law regimes of Germany and France. One of the main obstacles is how the contractual exception works, because a contract of agency can be implied through the parties’ relationship (The Ocean Frost [1986] AC 717). Thus, this raises the question if the concept of apparent authority, as identified in Bedford Insurance Co Ltd v Instituto de Resseguros de Brasil [1984] 3 All ER 766, has a place in contract law. This is especially as such implied agency contracts are alien with the civil law system.

3. Should the privity of contract rule be reformed, in order to allow the third party to sue on a contract in their benefit?

This dissertation topic will explore the sufficiency of the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999. There has been the limitation of the privity rule developed by the Tweddle v Atkinson (1861) 1 B & S 393 through this Act. Under s. 1(3) of the Act identify an expressly named third party or third party group will be able to enforce a contract; however is this enough? The main issue is the consumer rarely engages in specially negotiated contracts, which illustrates the insufficiency of the Act. However, the cases of Nisshan Shipping Co Ltd v Cleaves & Co Ltd [2003] EWHC 2602 and Lanenthong Lines Co Ltdv Artis 2005] EWCA Civ 519 have imputed third parties right to sue through a wide interpretation of intention. Thus, should this wide approach become the norm?

4. Is the English Courts’ focus on Contractual Certainty has meant that Predictability has stymied the growth of ensuring Fairness in Contract Law?

This dissertation topic will explore the distinction between the court’s application on commercial and personal contracts (especially in the case of familial relationships). Thus, it will identify that “fairness” has a greater impact on husband and wife contracts, which can be seen in Barclays Bank plc v O’Brien [1994] 1 AC 180 and Yorkshire Bank v Tinsley [2004] EWCA Civ 816. However, the role of fairness is significantly limited in commercial transactions, which can be seen in the case of Lobb (Alec) (Garages) Ltd v Total Oil (GB) [1985] 1 WLR 173. Thus, this examination will explore whether the nature of the relationship is sufficient to allow a flexible concept of fairness to be applied, or should there be consistency?

5. To what extent does Contract Law effectively deal with Unconscionable Exclusion Clauses?

This dissertation topic will explore the evolution of judicial intervention in respect to the validity of exclusion clauses, stemming from Parker v South Eastern Railway (1877) 2 CPD 416 to the introduction of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. The Act brought forth the concept of reasonableness, which meant that exclusion clauses can be struck out if deemed unreasonable. But, there are still limitations as identified in the cases of Interfoto Picture Library Ltd v Stiletto Visual Programmes Ltd [1989] QB 433. But, the recent case of Röhlig (UK) Ltd v. Rock Unique Limited [2011] EWCA Civ 18 indicates a broader application, which raises the question whether there should be a new direction taken with respect to unconscionable exclusion clauses.

6. Is the role of Innominate Terms and Judicial Flexibility in the interpretation of these terms essential?

The role of innominate terms is an important development in English contract law, because it identifies a flexible approach to determining contractual intention whilst forcing flexibility to allow pre-contractual negotiations to be considered. This model places a balancing effect on the stringent parole evidence rule. Thus, the role of the innominate term can impute prior knowledge into the contract (Ashington Piggeries v Christopher Hill Ltd [1972] AC 441). On this basis, the topic of innominate terms can create an interesting and insightful discussion of contract law’s flexibility; whereby the role of the innominate term can create a new set of protections for the contractual parties.

7. Is the English adamant retention of Damages as the primary Remedy for Breach of Contract fit for purpose?

This dissertation topic explores the remedial approaches of the English jurisdiction compared with the US, Europe and the CISG (Vienna Convention on the International Sale of Goods 1980). In many jurisdictions the claimant has the right to choose the preferred remedy for breach of contract; whereas English law is centred on Hadley v Baxendale (1854) 9 Exch 341 damages. Thus, this raises questions on the effectiveness of the English model, especially as contracts are becoming more complex. Therefore, a comparative discussion of contractual remedies provides a topic that is both current and engages the reader.

8. Should Judicial Conservatism over Specific Performance be reconsidered in English law, as the CISG and PECL provide this a “real” Remedial choice?

This dissertation topic explores the conservatism of English law with regards to specific performance, which only applies this remedy in exceptional circumstances (Wilson v Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway Co (1874) 9 Ch App 279). The consequence of this is that the contracting parties are limited to damages when considered adequate (Phillips v Lamdin [1949] 2 KB 33). However, there are cases that indicate a relaxation in the application of specific performance, which can be seen in the case of Laemthong Lines Co Ltd v Artis (The Laemthong Glory) (No 2) [2005] EWCA 519. The widening of specific performance may be motivated by the internationalisation of contract law; therefore the English relaxation of specific performance will be compared with pro-specific performance jurisdictions (such as the USA).

9. Should the concept of Good Faith become a part of English Contract law?

This dissertation topic explores the refusal of English law to accept the concept of good faith, which seems out of sync with international trends. The good faith principles is inherent in civil law contract systems, due to the concept of pacta sunt servanda, but there are also trends across common law countries (i.e. Australia, the US and Canada) to import the concept of good faith in contracts. Thus, a comparative examination of the civil and common law approaches to good faith will be explored, in order to identify whether English law should import the concept into its jurisprudence. This is especially important as the case of Petromec Inc v Petroleo Brasiliero SA Petrobas (No 3) [2005] EWWA Civ 891 allowed the concept of good faith to be applicable through the backdoor approach of “upgrading” terms.

10. To what extent is the French concept of force majeure eroded in English Contract Law? Does the Canadian “bridging” model provide a better approach to force majeure?

This dissertation topic will explore the French concept of force majeure to determine how it is implemented in English contract law. The case of Davis Contractors v Fareham UDC [1956] 2 All ER 145 identifies that force majeure events only applies if there is a contractual clause providing for such events. This is significantly different from the French application that allows such events to suspend or nullify the contract. Thus, it is important to explore the differentiation between the French (Civil law) and English (Common law) approaches to force majeure to determine their effectiveness (and the extent the English model erodes the French model). These systems will be compared to the Canadian Common law model that bridges the two systems, as identified in the case of Atlantic Paper Stock Ltd v St Anne-Nackawic Pulp and Paper Co, [1976] 1 SCR 580. Thus, a comparative review of the French, English and Canadian law approaches to force majeure will be undertaken to identify the most effective approach.

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