In every state, duress laws are taken very seriously, as they can cause stress and financial hardships on victims. In the case of Maskell v Horner in 1915, toll money was taken from a plaintiff when he was threatened with his market being closed down and goods seized. If he did not pay, he was told he would face these consequences immediately. Of course, it was against the law for these tolls to be demanded against him in the first place. The plaintiff was permitted to recover all the toll money paid because he was entitled to the money as restitution after being conned out of the payments. Sadly, this was not the first case of duress and definitely not the last.
What is Duress and When Does it Occur?
When somebody is forced to sign a contract under pressure, this is known as duress. Duress cases include threats to personal liberty, threats of actual violence, and excessive economic pressure. The state of mind of the victim is considered in duress cases. If you sign a contract under this type of pressure, the courts will typically find the contract invalid. Has somebody used violence or force against you to compel you to enter into a contract? If you were forced into signing a contract by means of a threat, you have a successful duress case against somebody. If you are accused of signing this contract, you can claim that it is invalid due to the fact that you were not entering voluntarily. One example of duress is if one party signed the contract because they were forced and had something held against them. Here are the two most common types of duress and what they imply:
- Economic: This type of duress is mostly found in commercial contract disputes when a party uses economic pressure to get another party to sign a contract. If it was seen as a typical event in business dealings, it may not qualify as duress. However, if an actual threat was made and the other party caused it, it will be seen as duress.
- Physical: This type of duress occurs when somebody enters into a contract after being physically threatened, such as causing them bodily harm or their family. This may cause somebody to enter into the contract even if they do not want to, which would not make it binding.
In cases of duress, there is something known as “consideration.” This is the bargaining and exchange of goods or services, which is considered the heart of a contract. If proper consideration was given, then this could mean that the document was actually binding. If both parties are benefiting from the contract, then consideration exists and duress is usually not a factor. So, what happens if you are sued for breaching a contract and you know that duress was involved? If you were threatened against your will to sign into a contract, you can take legal action against another party. Consider speaking to an attorney today to get started on your duress case. At The Law Office of Peter Blair, we want to help you every step of the way.