Restatements of the Law, aka Restatements, are a series of treatises that articulate the principles or rules for a specific area of law. They are secondary sources of law written and published by the American Law Institute (ALI) to clarify the law. Restatements currently exist for twenty areas of law such as Contracts, Law Governing Lawyers, and Torts.
The ALI created Restatements to help courts understand and interpret the current common law. Thus, Restatements synthesize and restate existing case law and statutes from various jurisdictions. Restatements contain the Black Letter, Comments, Illustrations, and Reporter’s Notes. While the Black Letter, Comments, and Illustrations are approved by the ALI and represent the ALI’s official position, Reporter’s Notes represent only the position of the reporter and not ALI. The Black Letter are the applicable legal rules, principles, or statements of law. Comments follow black letter rules; they explain the rule, its background and rationale for adoption, and how to apply the rule. Illustrations are part of Comments; they provide examples of how the Black Letter would be applied to a particular set of facts. Reporter’s Notes discuss the authority of the Black Letter. Reporters can also use the notes component to suggest related areas for investigation.
As secondary sources, Restatements are only a source of persuasive authority and do not replace precedents and controlling statutes. However, courts may choose to adopt or cite approvingly to Restatement provisions as law, thereby making that provision mandatory authority. For example, in West v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., Inc., the Florida Supreme Court decided to adopt the doctrine of strict liability from the Restatement (Second) of Torts.
[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]