Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



In this chapter, we explore the ability of courts to enhance the role of substantive law in case outcomes by reducing party litigation costs. When it becomes less costly for parties to engage actively in dispute resolution, the shadow of substantive law should, in theory, become more pronounced and case outcomes should change (and hopefully become more accurate/efficient on average). To empirically investigate this hypothesis, we examine the consequences of a large state court’s implementation of court-assisted online dispute resolution (ODR) tools for its small claims docket. A central goal of this technology is to reduce litigation costs of all sorts so that parties are able to communicate easily and negotiate settlements quickly in the shadow of what is —or could be—efficient substantive law, thereby avoiding inefficient status quo outcomes, like default judgments. ODR tools enhance court efficiency and litigant satisfaction by giving parties on‐demand, inexpensive access to a private and secure platform to negotiate an agreement that fully resolves their dispute. We find that, by reducing costs, eliminating procedural inefficiencies, and placing decision-making power in the hands of the parties, platform technology reduces the likelihood of default and likely improves the substantive outcome of disputes.


Reproduced with permission of Cambridge University Press, 2020. All rights reserved. DOI