Sylvester Udemezue, ‘A Critical Evaluation of Appropriateness of Duress and Undue Influence as Legal Safeguards Against Unconscionable Contracts’

ABSTRACT
Duress and undue influence as equitable concepts in the Law of Contract permit an innocent party to withdraw from a subsisting contractual relationship on grounds that the innocent party was induced to accede to such contractual relationship, by reprehensible pressure on the part of the other party; in other words, that as a result of some unconscionable conduct of the part of the other party to the contract, the agreement that gave rise to the contract could not be said to have proceeded from the voluntary choice of the innocent party and as such ought to be annulled. Although the major issue where both or either of duress or undue influence is relied upon to seek to invalidate a contract, is whether the aggrieved party has acted freely, yet duress must be distinguished from undue influence in that the former is usually pleaded as a causative factor to undue influence whereas the latter is relied upon to establish that as a result of duress or other causes, the aggrieved person was deprived of the requisite mental capacity to legitimately and freely make a choice. While it is obvious that presence of such pressure should may constitute a good-enough reason to overturn an otherwise good agreement, it is important to scrutinize belief(s) that inspire resolutions permitting a repudiation of contracts on the basis of either of these concepts with a view to delimiting the exact range of application or effect of each or both of them. This paper examines the question whether duress and undue influence as vitiating factors constitute sufficient legal safeguards against unconscionable contractual transactions. Beginning with a brief look at meaning, types, scope and application of duress and undue influence, the paper proceeds to a consideration of relevant case law and statutory provisions on application of these concepts to unconscionable contracts, and then concludes with a general discussion of the adequacy or otherwise of the law on the subject.

Udemezue, Sylvester, A Critical Evaluation of Appropriateness of Duress and Undue Influence as Legal Safeguards Against Unconscionable Contracts (January 22, 2019).

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