Substituting Invalid Contract Terms: Theory and Preliminary Empirical Findings

Ori Katz, Eyal Zamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The law often lays down mandatory rules, from which the parties may deviate in favor of one party but not the other. Examples include the invalidation of high-liquidated damages and the unenforceability of excessive noncompete clauses in employment contracts. In these cases, the law may substitute the invalid term with a moderate arrangement, with a punitive arrangement that strongly favors the protected party, or with a minimally tolerable arrangement (MTA), which preserves the original term as much as is tolerable. This article revisits the choice between the various substitutes. Based on theoretical analysis and five new empirical studies (N = 2,089), it argues that the incidence of MTAs should be rather limited. It demonstrates that people find moderate substitute arrangements more attractive than the alternatives. It also points to two overlooked incentive effects of the substitute arrangement (in addition to its impact on the drafting of contracts). First, the applicable substitute strongly influences customers' inclination to challenge excessive contract terms once a dispute arises. Second, when the invalidation of an excessive term is discretionary, the applicable substitute can affect decision makers' inclination to invalidate excessive clauses in the first place.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)780-818
Number of pages39
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 30 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Bar Foundation.


Dive into the research topics of 'Substituting Invalid Contract Terms: Theory and Preliminary Empirical Findings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this