A contract is an agreement that specifies certain legally enforceable rights and obligations pertaining to two or more mutually agreeing parties. A contract typically involves the transfer of goods, services, money, or a promise to transfer any of those at a future date. In the event of a breach of contract, the injured party may seek judicial remedies such as damages or rescission. A binding agreement between actors in international law is known as a treaty.
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Contract law, the field of the law of obligations concerned with contracts, is based on the principle that agreements must be honoured. Like other areas of private law, contract law varies between jurisdictions. In general, contract law is exercised and governed either under common law jurisdictions, civil law jurisdictions, or mixed-law jurisdictions that combine elements of both common and civil law. Common law jurisdictions typically require contracts to include consideration in order to be valid, whereas civil and most mixed-law jurisdictions solely require a meeting of the minds between the parties.
Within the overarching category of civil law jurisdictions, there are several distinct varieties of contract law with their own distinct criteria: the German tradition is characterised by the unique doctrine of abstraction, systems based on the Napoleonic Code are characterised by their systematic distinction between different types of contracts, and Roman-Dutch law is largely based on the writings of renaissance-era Dutch jurists and case law applying general principles of Roman law prior to the Netherlands' adoption of the Napoleonic Code. The UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts, published in 2016, aim to provide a general harmonised framework for international contracts, independent of the divergences between national laws, as well as a statement of common contractual principles for arbitrators and judges to apply where national laws are lacking. Notably, the Principles reject the doctrine of consideration, arguing that elimination of the doctrine "bring[s] about greater certainty and reduce litigation" in international trade. The Principles also rejected the abstraction principle on the grounds that it and similar doctrines are "not easily compatible with modern business perceptions and practice".
Contract law can be contrasted with tort law (also referred to in some jurisdictions as the law of delicts), the other major area of the law of obligations. While tort law generally deals with private duties and obligations that exist by operation of law, and provide remedies for civil wrongs committed between individuals not in a pre-existing legal relationship, contract law provides for the creation and enforcement of duties and obligations through a prior agreement between parties. The emergence of quasi-contracts, quasi-torts, and quasi-delicts renders the boundary between tort and contract law somewhat uncertain.