Joanna McCunn, Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol (UK), and Andrew Bell, Research Assistant at the Institute for European Tort Law, present their paper on "The Familiar Unknown: Legal Responses to Intractable Factual Uncertainties" in a Juristenrunde on 2 December 2019.
Laws are imposed on facts and legal systems have rules for ascertaining these. Despite our best efforts, however, those standard rules can fail and leave critical facts simply unknowable. Scenarios that raise this problem are not constrained by jurisdictional or doctrinal boundaries, and they appear, to varying extents, throughout history. For this reason, a comparative, legal historical analysis of the problem suggests itself.
Joanna McCunn and Andrew Bell's paper discusses a first step taken in a project aiming to achieve such an analysis. From amongst the many possibilities, the paper focuses on two particular uncertainties: commorientes rules apply where there are multiple deaths, but their sequence is unknown; uncertainties about the meaning of a contract are resolved, as a last resort, by maxims like the contra proferentem rule. This paper compares understandings of and responses to these scenarios across time and jurisdiction, seeking a better understanding both of intractable uncertainty and of the legal systems that face it.
The event takes place in the Institute's premises and is free of charge.