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This subject builds on skills introduced in the foundation subject Legal Method and Reasoning, both in continuing to develop skills in the close reading and critical analysis of cases and in the interpretation of legislation. The substantive content of the subject considers the nature and foundations of the law of obligations through the study of four categories of private law obligation:
- Obligations arising from exchange transactions (contracts);
- The obligation not to mislead or deceive in trade or commerce (misleading conduct);
- The obligation not to cause harm through inconsistent conduct (estoppel); and
- The obligation to restore unjust gains (restitution or unjust enrichment).
Topics to be examined in detail will include:
- The nature of private law obligations and the relationship between obligations and property;
- The nature and foundations of contractual obligations;
- The formation of contracts (the requirements of agreement, consideration, intention to create legal relations, certainty and capacity);
- Formalities and the creation of equitable interests in property;
- The doctrine of privity (by whom and against whom contractual obligations are enforceable);
- The statutory wrong of misleading or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce;
- The principles of estoppel (the nature of equity, equitable and common law estoppel and the creation of property interests by way of estoppel); and
- The law of unjust enrichment (the nature of the law of restitution, money claims, claims in respect of services and defences).
Intended learning outcomes
The purpose of this subject is to instill the technical skills and foundational substantive knowledge required for the development of an advanced and integrated understanding of four categories of private law obligation, and their interconnections and disjunctions, through analysis of cases, statutes and scholarly writing and through participation in class discussion. In this way the subject establishes the critical foundations for further specialised study in private law obligations. It is expected that on completion of the subject students will have developed an integrated understanding of the nature and structure of the law of obligations and be able to:
- Critically analyse and evaluate the basis of decisions recognising or denying private law obligations;
- Identify relevant principles in cases and statutes and apply those principles to particular fact situations to reach well-reasoned conclusions about the rights and obligations of the parties in those fact situations;
- Develop creative, sophisticated and well-founded arguments as to ways in which the relevant principles could be applied to novel fact situations; and
- Critically analyse and evaluate relevant legal and equitable principles and statutory provisions and analyse particular problems from a range of theoretical or comparative perspectives.
On completion of the subject, students will have developed the following integrated cognitive, technical and creative skills:
- The capacity for close reading and critical analysis of a range of sources;
- The capacity for critical, independent and creative thought and reflection on the role and functioning of the law of obligations;
- The capacity to think across boundaries of private law subjects and to appreciate the need for and consequences of integrated legal knowledge;
- An approach to problem solving that is both well-founded in existing legal methodology and thinking, and is sufficiently creative to allow for the existing boundaries to be pushed;
- The capacity to communicate appropriately and in a convincing manner, both orally and in writing to defined audiences; and
- Attitudes towards knowledge that include valuing truth, openness to new ideas and ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage.
Last updated: 3 November 2022