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Professor French to take part in Duke University conference on “Contractual Black Holes”

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Law visiting assistant professor of law Christopher French has been invited to speak at Duke University School of Law at a conference on “Contractual Black Holes” scheduled for April 7 and 8.

The conference will focus on what happens when contractual black holes, provisions whose shared meaning is lost over time, show up in standard form contracts used on a global scale. The subject of the conference relates to French’s forthcoming Temple Law Review article “The Illusion of Insurance Contracts.”

Over the conference’s two days, there will be six sessions, in which participants will present a paper and commentators will follow up with their thoughts and analysis. French will comment in the third session, titled “Black Holes in Industry Organization Contracts – Insurance and Derivatives,” presented by Michelle Boardman of George Mason University and Ofer Eldar of Duke.

“I am looking forward to the conference because standardized contracts dominate the world of contracts today,” said French. “In order to avoid reinventing the wheel, the drafters of contracts have been cutting and pasting standardized language from old contracts for generations. Consequently, there are now numerous provisions found in contracts that courts and attorneys do not really understand. Nor do they know why the language historically has been used. Consequently, they are left to create new meanings for old provisions without any contextual grounding.”

The conference is jointly sponsored by the Columbia Law School Center on Contract and Economic Organization and the Kauffman Foundation, the NYU Law School Pollack Center for Law and Business, and the Duke Law School Center for Comparative and International Law & the Center for Race, Law and Politics.

French has written extensively in the area where insurance law intersects with contract and tort law, and he currently teaches Torts, Contracts, Remedies, and Insurance Law. He has been published in law review journals at Georgia State University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Virginia, among other law schools, and he is the primary author of Insurance Law in a Nutshell. Before coming to Penn State Law, French taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Villanova Law School, and was a former partner at K&L Gates LLP, where he worked as a commercial litigator.

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