Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"I have a life to live."

One of my most vivid memories of our contracts class was our professor joking on one occasion that whenever he signed a car rental agreement he wondered what he was agreeing to in the car rental company's contract. He also joked that he envisioned headlines like "Contracts Professor Doesn't Read Contract" if it turned out that the car rental contract contained some outlandish provision.

He is not alone in not reading the contracts he signs. Josh Blackman reports that two of the country's most famous appellate court judges, Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, have fessed up to not reading contracts that they have signed. Judge Easterbrook's quote is particularly memorable. In discussing the RESPA documents he signed as part of his recent home purchase, Judge Easterbrook said "I didn't read one word. I have a life to live." Having recently bored myself silly on these documents as part of refinancing my home, I wish he would have said this a month ago so that I would have had some persuasive authority to rely on when I tried to get out of reading them.


  1. Unlike Judges Easterbrook and Posner, however, you do not have a life to live...

    I am frequently tempted to just cross out random portions of these form contracts and see if anybody notices.

  2. I have been tempted to sign such contracts "Donald Duck," as the Michael Scott character in The Office signed his acknowledgement of the harassment "contract" he signed in one episode.

    On a serious note, we have an inconsistency in the law where we sometimes allow "consumers" to disclaim "contracts of adhesion" (somewhat arbitrarily (that is, unpredictably)), but then hold all businesses to every contract without exception (e.g., equipment lease contracts, whose terms are very often extremely onerous and one-sided).

    I understand the distinction, and understand its rationale, but wonder whether it is economically justified.

  3. My favorite part about the process of closing on my mortgage was the insistence that my signature say "Bartholomew" rather than "Bart" even though my signature always says "Bart." In other words, I was forced to forge my own signature to satisfy this robot/clerk. If I were ever asked in some proceeding to confirm that the signature on those documents was mine, I'd have to confess that, "No, that is not my signature."


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