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What does it mean to sign under duress?
What can be done if you were forced to sign a contract?
In this article, I will break down the notion of Signing Under Duress so you know all there is to know about it!
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Signed Under Duress Meaning
Signing under duress means that you were “forced” or “coerced” to sign a document or contract.
When that happens, the document or contract you signed is not valid.
In principle, a contract is formed when there’s a meeting of the minds or when two or more people “agree” to do or not to do something.
As a result, when a person is forced to sign a contract, in other words signing under duress, the contract can be invalidated.
Keep reading as I will tell you more about the enforceability of contracts signed under duress.
Enforceability of Contract Signed Under Duress
When a person is forced to sign a contract against his or her will, that person can petition the court to have the contract invalidated.
It is possible that a person was pressured to sign a contract that he or she would not have signed without the pressure tactics.
However, it’s important to mention that the burden of proof is on the person asking for the contract to be invalidated.
This means that if you’re asking for the contract to be invalidated, you have the burden to prove to the court that you were forced to sign under duress.
If you succeed in demonstrating that you signed under duress, the court will invalidate the contract.
If you don’t succeed, the court will maintain the contract allowing the other party to enforce his or her rights.
How To Get Out of Contract Signed Under Duress
You can get out of a contract signed under duress in two main ways.
Your first option is to speak with the other contracting party and ask that he or she voluntarily agree to terminate the contract without any financial consequences to you.
In some cases, this can work.
However, in many cases, the other contracting party will probably not accept to cancel the contract without getting the benefits intended under the contract.
Your second option is to have the court declare the contract as invalid by proving you signed under duress.
This means that you will either have to wait until the other party sues you so you can present the duress defense argument or you actively file a lawsuit to invalidate the contract.
No matter if you are sued or you sue, you’ll need to prove the facts supporting your argument that you were forced to sign against your will.
Considering the complexity of the legal argument, most people will consider hiring an experienced contract attorney or trial lawyer to represent them in court.
How To Prove You Signed Under Duress
To demonstrate that you “signed under duress”, you must demonstrate and prove that you were “forced” to sign.
For example, if you signed the contract following severe threats from the other party to harm you or someone you know, that could be an example of duress.
On the other hand, if you did not read the contract before signing or you did not understand the terms of the contract and chose not to hire a lawyer or have someone read it to you, the court will not accept that argument as being forced.
It’s also important to note that it’s also a fair game when you have a salesperson who uses strong sales tactics to have you sign a contract but without forcing you or coercing you.
If you signed a contract where all the elements of a valid contract are present, then the court may choose to maintain the validity of that contract.
To win your case in court, you really have to demonstrate how you were forced to sign the contract and that you did not against your will.
Signed Under Duress Examples
What are some examples of instances that the court can consider as a document or contract being signed under duress?
Although there are potentially many examples of duress, here are some of the most common ones:
- Signing contract under threat of violence
- Signing contract while being detained
- Pressuring to sign due to severe financial hardship
- Signing when there was misrepresentation or fraud
- When the terms of the contract are impossible to satisfy
- Signing an unconscionable contract
As you can see, the common thread here is that the victim signed a contract without having the ability to make a free and informed decision.
When the court assesses the circumstances in which the victim signed the contract, the court will subjectively assess the victim’s mindset at the time the contract was signed.
As a result, the court will look at what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation but also consider the victim’s subjective state of mind when the document was signed.
So there you have it folks!
When you are influenced to sign a contract that you would not have otherwise signed, you may have signed under duress.
For example, when a person is subjected to physical or psychological threats when signing a contract, the court may consider that the agreement was signed under duress.
When a contract is considered as having been signed by a person who did not intend to sign it, the court will not enforce that contract.
However, the person who is raising the “duress” argument must prove the facts supporting the argument.
Now that you know what is the meaning of signing under duress, good luck with your research!
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