Oliver Jackson, ‘Unconscionability, uncertainty and lawful act duress’

INTRODUCTION
The ‘great object’ of commercial law is to bring certainty to commercial transactions, so that ‘speculators in trade then know what ground to go upon’: see the famous observations of Lord Mansfield in Vallejo v Wheeler. The existence of a doctrine of lawful act duress is controversial as it risks undermining that certainty. It enables party B to rescind its contract with party A due to A’s actions if those actions, despite being lawful, are deemed ‘illegitimate’. If the doctrine does not exist, such that A’s actions have to be unlawful for the contract to be rescinded, then a clear line can be drawn: unlawfulness forms an easily applicable standard and certainty is preserved. But if lawful acts can support claims of duress, it is much harder to distinguish between what is legitimate and illegitimate.

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Oliver Jackson, ‘Unconscionability, uncertainty and lawful act duress’ [2021] Journal of Business Law (8) 701-708.

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