The Importance of Fault in Contract Law

Robert A. Hillman, Cornell Law School


According to judicial opinions, the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, and some analysts, the reasons for failing to perform a contract, whether willful, negligent, or unavoidable, have little or no bearing in determining contract liability. Contract liability is said to be “strict,” meaning that the reasons for nonperformance are irrelevant in determining the injured party’s rights. In this Article, I argue that the reasons for failing to perform, which focus on whether non-performance is the promisor’s fault, are crucially important in the resolution of many, perhaps most disputes under contract law.