Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Pace Law Review

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

As demonstrated by this symposium, the opinion in Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon' is one of Benjamin Cardozo's most celebrated opinions. The essential facts are these. The defendant, Lady Lucy, "occupied a unique and high position as a creator of fashions in America, England and France." Because of her prestige in the fashion industry, her endorsements of women's fashions had "a distinct monetary value to the manufacturers of such articles." The plaintiff, Otis F. Wood, had "a business organization adapted to the placing of such endorsements." Accordingly, the parties agreed that Wood was to have the exclusive right to place Lady Lucy's endorsements. When he did so, the parties would share equally in the proceeds. .............

This article considers three aspects of Cardozo's opinion in Lady Lucy's case. The first is the way in which he used the concept of unconscionability to create a contract that would not otherwise have existed (what we might call "formative unconscionability"), rather than to invalidate a contract in whole or in part, and the incongruity of that result in this case. The second is Cardozo's impracticality, from the point of view of a practicing lawyer and of a client in Lady Lucy's position, in creating a contract in Lady Lucy's case. The third is how Lady Lucy's case illustrates Cardozo's sometime practice of abusing his power as a judge by neglecting, or even demeaning, the humanity of parties who appeared before him.

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