Stories of Popular Contracts: This research and reflection project asks students to do three things:
1. Read and understand the central message of the supplemental text for the course: Lawrence
Cunningham, Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They
Matter. Begin your paper by summarizing Cunningham’s book and discussing the ethical
foundations for why parties perform their contracts in American law.
2. Build on the Cunningham book by doing additional research on the legal and ethical
justifications for why someone should continue to perform a contract when conditions
change following contract formation. In other words, parties often form contracts
assuming that the conditions of their lives, businesses, etc. will stay the same in the future.
For instance, when you buy a house, you have a job that allows you to make the monthly
mortgage payment. Most of us presume that we will always have a job. But what if
conditions change? What if you lose your job? Does that change in conditions allow you
to legally or ethically stop performing the contract? Why or why not? Does your answer
hold true for all changes in conditions? Are there some changes in conditions that are so
significant that the parties are excused from future performance, both legally and ethically?
I have included an old journal article with this project that will help you think about these
questions from an ethical perspective. You will want to do additional research, of course,
but this article is a good place to start. In writing about American law on the issue of
changing conditions and contract performance, you will want to analyze and discuss at
least five cases.
3. Think about and describe what motivates you. Perhaps your motivations come from a well-
developed sense of ethics, or perhaps from a faith tradition like Christianity. Once you
have spent some time considering what your ethical or faith tradition teaches about
business ethics, apply it to contract performance. In other words, how will you behave as
a contracting party in light of the ethical and faith commitments that you claim to have?
Does your faith make any difference? I have included a reading from a legal historian,
Harold Berman, that discusses the religious foundations of contract law. This reading may
help you think about the ethical and theological dimensions that are present when two
parties make and perform a contract.
You will demonstrate your research and reflection in a written paper of at least 2000 words.
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