A New Theory Concerning the Credibility and Success of Threats to Sue

27 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2004 Last revised: 8 May 2009

See all articles by Lucian A. Bebchuk

Lucian A. Bebchuk

Harvard Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: 1996


Negative-expected-value (NEV) suits are ones in which the expected litigation costs exceed the expected judgment. This paper offers a new explanation for the credibility and success of plaintiff with NEV suits. The explanation is based on the fact that litigation costs are generally not incurred all at once but rather over time; this divisibility of the litigation process is shown to play a crucial strategic role. The analysis identifies the conditions under which a plaintiff with an NEV suit will have a credible threat and succeed in extracting a settlement. It is demonstrated that plaintiffs have credible threats in a much wider set of cases - including in numerous small-stake cases - than has been suggested by prior economic analysis of the subject.

Keywords: Litigation, suit, settlement, credibility, negative-expected-value suit, frivolous suit

JEL Classification: C70, C79, K4

Suggested Citation

Bebchuk, Lucian A., A New Theory Concerning the Credibility and Success of Threats to Sue (1996). Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 25, pp. 1-25, 1996, Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 158, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=557243

Lucian A. Bebchuk (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3138 (Phone)
617-812-0554 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/bebchuk/

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics