Headlines for Contracts Book

Contracts in the Real World is the title of my next book, which Cambridge University Press will publish in the spring of 2012.  It rips stories from the headlines about contracts disputes, showing how old-fashioned cases and doctrines still taught in law schools apply to cases arising every day in this country. (Contra the absurd claim made by David Segal’s infamous NYT piece denigrating the teaching of such old cases as Hadley v. Baxendale.) 

I’ve written about the book’s purpose and apppeal elsewhere, including on this blog and at Conglomerate. We are now designing the cover and the creative folks at CUP imagine a headline collage, using actual or adapted headlines to indicate some of the stories and issues in the book.  They invited me to make a list for the team to consider as they do this work.  A draft follows.  I’d welcome suggestions for improvement!

Mistaken Madoff Victim Wants Divorce Contract Do-Over

Donald Trump Says Recession Excuses Bank Loan Deal

Scrivener’s Error in Case of Who Owns the Los Angeles Dodgers

NBC Pays Conan $45M To Go

Charlie Sheen Settles Suit in “Two and a Half Men” Firing


Obama Tells Treasury to Block AIG Bonus Contracts

Paris Hilton Escapes Paying Damages in “Pledge This” Lawsuit

Washington Redskins Take Hard Line on Ticket Contracts

Courts Calls Sprint Fees for Early Contract Terminations Unreasonable

Rod Stewart Owes “Restitution” on Vegas Show Contract


“Sopranos” Creator Wins Contract Case as Jury Says Fuhgeddaboutit

Court Upholds Eminem Royalties Deal

Meaning of Golden Globes Contract Disputed

Boxing Promoter Fights Maya Angelou over Hallmark Cards Pact

Novelist Clive Cussler Breached “Sahara” Movie Contract


Kevin Costner Says Contract Gave Him Buffalo Sculpture

Cost Overruns in Sandra Bullock’s Lake House Contract

Michael Jordan’s Ex Loses Palimony Case

Judge Tosses Suit by 50 Cent’s Ex-Girlfriend

Lady Gaga Smells a Rat in Spat with Ex-Lover  


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6 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    My gut reaction: this sort of cover will make your book dated within a year. It’s one thing if the contents are a couple years out of synch with the real world (as inevitably they will be unless you revise annually). But for the cover to be: kiss of death. People do judge books by their covers, esp. when they consider whether to buy them. By 2013 or 2014 how many profs are going to give this a serious look in a catalogue? Assuming it’ll be reproduced large enough for the headlines to be legible. Even if you issue annual pocket parts, the book will still look like an old copy of People magazine. You might as well have it grow a mullet.

    If you must use this list, please watch for a consistent tone. “Lady Gaga Smells a Rat in Spat with Ex-Lover ” doesn’t exactly fit in with “Donald Trump Says Recession Excuses Bank Loan Deal”: one uses a technical legal term, the other Variety diction. Nor does Lady Gaga’s case fit in with “Cost Overruns in Sandra Bullock’s Lake House Contract” — the excitement level is a bit different. And the Obama item is traditional casebook material. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I think you may find these dissonances inevitable.

    A single graphic that suggests pop & fun would entail much less commitment about the date of the contents. It also would have an immediate visual impact (how many print ads can you describe from memory where the main image was cluttered with lots of text?). And it won’t need to be changed each time you revise the book, either.

    Given that CUP can’t keep a book as topical as one on European comparative company law, published as recently as July 2009, in print (as they informed me by a recent email), it may take a long-jump of faith to trust their marketing sense. Sorry to be so negative. But I’ve read part of your book already, and I know it deserves better.

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    It doesn’t involve a celebrity, but on contract interpretation and IIRC parol evidence, there’s the “what is a sandwich” case a few years back that involved determining whether a burrito place qualified as a competing sandwich shop that was barred under a commercial lease agreement.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    An afterthought: if you must use headlines, then (i) put all of them in Variety-speak, and (ii) anonymize them, i.e., don’t refer to 50 Cent, Obama, et al. by name, but by a snazzy moniker, based on their occupation or some other attribute, e.g.: Prexy, rapper, mogul, etc., “Poet punches pugilist promoter over pact,” etc. The idea is to decontextualize them temporally, if I may be so pretentious about it, while still being entertaining. But this is still second-best to a graphic that isn’t so burdened by text.

  4. Bruce Boyden says:

    Oops, I misunderstood the purpose of this post, sorry.

  5. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Thanks AJ for these views (and Bruce too because I’m now always in the market for such examples) and I remain eager to hear more from anyone willing to chime in.

  6. A.J. Sutter says:

    Sorry, the idea lingers on: Following up to my #3, one name it might be OK to leave clear is Lady Gaga’s, because it’s already in the Variety idiom. E.g.: “Ex-Gaga beau gaga over ex’s dough”.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!