There are approximately 500 legal doctrines referenced in Black’s Law Dictionary. And there are more where those came from. Legal doctrines – many of which originated before the United States was in existence – routinely shape the end result of a legal dispute. While there would be no way to adequately identify and describe all potential legal doctrines, over the next few blog posts, I will provide a random list and brief description of interesting legal doctrines which have been successfully utilized in business litigation:
- Intracorporate Conspiracy Immunity Doctrine (a/k/a Inra-enterprise Conspiracy Doctrine): A doctrine holding that a business cannot conspire with itself. The doctrine has been extended to negate conspiracy claims asserted against parent-pubsidiary companies, sister companies (two wholly owned subsidiaries) and employees/agents. See, e.g., Copperweld Corp. v. Indep. Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752, 771, (1984) (“the coordinated activity of a parent and its wholly owned subsidiary must be viewed as that of a single enterprise for purposes of § 1 of the Sherman Act. … [A parent company] and its wholly owned subsidiary … are incapable of conspiring with each other.”).
- Doctrine of Independent Legal Significance: A doctrine holding that certain documents, such as contracts, wills, and promissory notes, have “independent legal significance” which makes them admissible and not hearsay. See, g., Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. v. Leadership Software, Inc., 12 F.3d 527, 540 (5th Cir. 1994) (wills, contracts, and promissory notes have independent legal significance and are nonhearsay); see also David F. Binder, Hearsay Handbook § 2:6 (“A written contract has independent legal significance. It defines the rights and obligations of the parties thereto, regardless of the truth of any assertions made in the document. Therefore, it is not hearsay.”).
- Mend the Hold Doctrine: The mend the hold doctrine, which takes its name from a nineteenth-century wrestling phrase, “prevents one party to litigation, especially in contract disputes, from trying to change its position or theories at such a late stage in the dispute as to cause unfair prejudice to the opposing party.” Estate of Burford v. Accounting Practice Sales, Inc., 851 F.3d 641, 644 (7th Cir. 2017); see also Harbor Ins. Co. v. Continental Bank Corp., 922 F.2d 357, 362 (7th Cir. 1990) (“[W]here a party gives a reason for his conduct and decision touching anything involved in a controversy, he cannot, after litigation has begun, change his ground, and put his conduct upon another and a different consideration. He is not permitted thus to mend his hold.”).
- The Doctrine of Unavoidable Consequences: This doctrine provides that, following a breach of contract, “the nonbreaching party has an active duty to mitigate his damages, and he may not, either by action or inaction, aggravate the injury occasioned by the breach.” Mahmood v. Ross, 990 P.2d 93 (Utah 1999). The doctrine of unavoidable consequences bars recovery of those damages which occurred after the initial injury and which might have been averted by reasonable conduct on the part of the plaintiff. The standard is that of a reasonable man under like circumstances. Philippe v. Browning Arms Co., 395 So.2d 310 at 318, n. 12 (La.1981). Admittedly, the Doctrine of Unavoidable Consequences is eerily similar to the duty to mitigate damages, but, subjectively, it sounds more significant.