La revisión del tratamiento de la imposibilidad inicial y del error en los contratos, a través del análisis de diversos textos jurídicos

Autor:Nieves Fenoy Picón
Cargo:Prof. Titular de Derecho civil. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Páginas:473-785
RESUMEN

La regulación del error en los contratos del Código civil es antigua y parca, y no refleja la doctrina de los autores, ni su aplicación práctica por los tribunales, siendo conveniente su reforma. La cuestión es cómo hacerse. Para responderlo, en el trabajo se analizan diferentes modelos de regulación del error en los contratos, teniendo en cuenta la distinción error vicio/error en la declaración. ... (ver resumen completo)

 
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I Introducción. una primera y básica visión de derecho comparado

[1] Este trabajo se inserta en lo que viene denominándose la Modernización del Derecho de obligaciones 1. Y lo centro en el análisis de las siguientes cuestiones jurídicas.

[2] La primera cuestión versa sobre el error jurídicamente relevante, lo que supone analizar cuáles son sus requisitos de aplicación. Como es conocido, del error se ha destacado su gran comple-

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jidad 2, lo que, ya mismo, se percibirá en las siguientes consideraciones que vierto en este apartado I del trabajo.

[3] Al aproximarse al error, es habitual encontrarse con la afirmación de que, en él, se enfrentan los siguientes intereses. Está el interés de proteger la voluntad del sujeto que erró, lo que lleva a que, descubierto su error, se le permita desvincularse del contrato. También está el interés de la protección del sujeto que no erró y que fue de buena fe, lo que conduce al mantenimiento del contrato. A esto último se le suele referir como el interés de la confianza. Por último, está el interés de la seguridad del tráfico jurídico; que los terceros puedan confiar en la validez de los contratos celebrados. El otorgar mayor importancia a uno u otro interés, o lograr un cierto equilibrio entre todos ellos, da lugar a la variedad de regulaciones de los distintos sistemas jurídicos 3. Realidad, la anterior, que Kramer describe del modo que sigue.

5. Freedom of the will.-The difficulty of the issue is due to the fundamental and contradictory principles of contract law which all come into play when one considers the legal significance of mistake. On the one side there is the principle of freedom of the will, according to which, as Savigny wrote, "the will itself must be treated as the only real and effective consideration". This view, which supports the will theory of the GERMAN pandectists of the

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last century, logically requires the invalidity of a declaration not conforming to the will of a party. [...] 4.

[...] 5.

7. Reliance; economic arguments.-On the other side there is the need to protect the reliance of the other party, along with, if one likes, the maxim "pacta sunt servanda" and the peculiarly ENGLISH principle of the sanctity of contract. According to this, one ought to be able to rely on the contractual word of the parties -"one man, one word" as an old GERMAN legal adage put it- without having to fear that one’s trust in the contract as concluded might be undermined by an appeal to subjective and erroneous assumptions of the other party. This principle of reliance can be supported by the notion of responsibility for one’s own actions. Whoever makes declarations under the influence of a mistake is liable for the defects arising from his own "sphere of risk", and should not be allowed to shift the risk of a onesided mistake onto the shoulders of the other party.

[...] 6.

8. Conclusion.-It is clear that these two major conflicting evaluations cannot easily be reconciled. One should thus not be surprised that legal systems throughout the world waver in uneasy compromises, sometimes emphasising the freedom of the will, sometimes suggesting that one errs at one’s own risk and that the reliance of the contractual partner on what has been declared is to be protected

(salvo esta última cursiva, mía, el resto y las mayúsculas del autor) 7.

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[4] Centrándome ya en el llamado error vicio, recordaré el distinto punto de partida con el que el Civil Law y el Common Law se enfrentan a aquél. Según Smits, con el que coincido, el Civil Law normalmente se acerca a partir del sujeto que yerra, mientras que el Derecho inglés lo hace desde la parte que causó el error. El autor lo expone como sigue.

The civil law usually approaches these questions from the perspective of the party in error. If the intention to be bound is the most essential element in the formation of a contract, then his intention must be properly formed. In cases where there is a ‘defect’ in the intention - because it is based on a wrong assumption - this must affect the vadility of the contract. A party must therefore be able to invalidate the contract in cases where the defect is serious enough. Civil law countries traditionally accept three defects of consent (vices du consentement, Willensmägel, wilsgebreken): mistake, fraud and threat. Civil codes usually group these three grounds for avoidance together in one section (see for example Arts. 1109 ff. Code Civil and §§ 119 ff. BGB; see however Arts. 3:44 and 6:228 Dutch BW). In addition to these three grounds, several jurisdictions also allow avoidance of the contract for undue influence.

The starting point of English law is different. It does no begin with the (defective) intention of the party in error, but from the party who caused the error. This party may have made false statements or - exceptionally - remained silent while it ought to have spoken. English law therefore requires a so-called misrepresentation in order for the contract to be avoided by the innocent party. It was only in the nineteenth century that, under continental influence, English law also carved out a place for avoidance on the basis of mistake not caused by a misrepresentation (a so-called self-induced misapprehension), but the scope of this possibility has remained very limited. As the English lawyer John Cartwright puts it: ‘English law rarely allows a remedy for mistake’ (practically speaking only the ‘common mistake’, [...], is accepted). The underlying policy reason behind this different approach is [...] that English law puts great emphasis on protecting the reasonable reliance of the other party who believes an agreement did come into being. Avoidance for mistake would frustrate this reliance

(cursiva del original) 8.

[5] En cuanto al llamado error obstativo o error en la declaración, este presenta también una pluralidad de trato en los distintos

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sistemas jurídicos. Kramer, de nuevo, describe sintéticamente esa pluralidad, y así, en algunos sistemas jurídicos el error obstativo tiene una posición privilegiada en cuanto que no hay vinculación contractual, o tiene la misma solución jurídica que la del error vicio, o es irrelevante bajo cierto presupuesto, etc.

67. Errors in expression privileged.-[...], the error in expression has a privileged position in certain legal systems on the conceptual ground that an undesired declaration cannot really be binding. GERMAN and SWISS law are paradigmatic of this approach. While it is true that FRENCH law only regulates mistakes of fact in its central provision (CC art. 1110 par. I), in practice the erreur-obstacle, which lacks express statutory basis, is given a privileged position in that it leads to nullity. Both writers and courts include cases where contractual statements have been misunderstood by the other party within the category of erreur-obstacle. The SPANISH Supreme Court holds that a declaration of will vitiated by an error of expression can be void under the doctrine of error obstativo, so long as the one making the statement cannot be criticised because he could have prevented the mistake with appropriate care. In other cases, i. e. where the one making the statement can be accused of carelessness, or where the other party is in good faith, the declaration of will is treated as fully valid.

68. Equal treatment of error in expression and mistakes of fact.-Other legal systems treat both categories identically. As has already been shown [...], AUSTRIAN (CC § 871 par. I) and ITALIAN law are notable for this approach.

69. Netherlands.-Finally, one must emphasise the solution adopted by the DUTCH new Civil Code. This only permits avoidance for mistake of fact, while invoking an error in expression (concerning the content of a contract as correctly interpreted) is expressly excluded by art. 3:35: "[...]". Reference has already been made to rules of the SCANDINAVIAN Contracts Act, which have the same effect [...].

70. Common Law; Objective theory of assent.-[...]./ ENGLISH law also stars from an "objective principle", or "objective test". The person making a statement is bound in spite of his error in expression, so long as "whatever [his] real intention may be, he so conducts himself that a reasonable man would believe that he was assenting to the terms proposed by the other party, and that other party upon that belief enters into the contract with him..."

9.

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[6] La segunda cuestión jurídica que en el trabajo trato se refiere al régimen jurídico aplicable a la imposibilidad inicial, total, absoluta y definitiva de la prestación contractual. Desde la perspectiva del Derecho comparado, a la misma se la ha aplicado el régimen de la nulidad absoluta, o el de la inexistencia 10; el de la anulabilidad (o nulidad relativa) por subsumirla en el error o en el dolo, vicios del consentimiento; y también se la ha aplicado el...

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