This course provides an overview of the basic structure of the law of obligations which has evolved in the legal systems of the common law and introduces some of its key concepts and methods. The primary focus of the first half of the course will be to outline in broad terms how English law approaches and organises core questions of liability across the fields of contract law, tort law, and residual areas of private law obligations, such as the law of unjustified enrichment. Within this broad overview lectures will touch on aspects of legal history and proposals for reform of the law to illuminate the path and possible future trajectory of legal development.
The second half of the course will address selectively some aspects of the law of obligations in more depth. Reviewing these aspects of the law provides further insight into (i) the common law’s use (and perhaps misuse) of general concepts as ‘multi-purpose tools’ of private law and (ii) the converse problem of fragmentation of the field of liability into separate causes of action. They will also shed further light on the tensions within common law liability law in developing doctrine and policy by judicial techniques and the values underpinning normative choices. In this context attention will be given to agents and fiduciaries, third party interference in obligations, and responsibility for the conduct of others.
Besides facilitating a deeper understanding of the legal debates and methods of the common law in its private law context, this introductory course provides a helpful foundation for further study of the law of obligations in modules on contract law and tort law in the common law.