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Poole's Casebook on Contract Law

Poole's Casebook on Contract Law (16th edn)

Robert Merkin KC and Séverine Saintier
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date: 21 July 2024

p. 51010. Duress, undue influence, and unconscionable bargainslocked

p. 51010. Duress, undue influence, and unconscionable bargainslocked

  • Robert Merkin KC, Robert Merkin KCProfessor of Commercial Law Reading Law School, University of Reading
  • Séverine SaintierSéverine SaintierProfessor in Commercial Law Cardiff School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University
  •  and Jill PooleJill Poole50th Anniversary Professor of Commercial Law and Head of Aston Law Deputy Dean, Aston Business School, Aston University


Poole’s Casebook on Contract Law provides a comprehensive selection of case law that addresses all aspects of the subject encountered on undergraduate courses. This chapter examines further vitiating factors which relate to the way in which the contract was entered into and render it voidable. It discusses the doctrines of duress and undue influence and whether contracts are affected by a general doctrine of unconscionability relating to the manner of formation and content relative to the nature and position of the contracting parties. The doctrine of economic duress allows for any contract to be set aside where unlawful threats to financial position were made in order to secure agreement. This doctrine is still evolving but represents a mechanism to prevent the enforceability of promises not freely given. Under the doctrine of undue influence, a contract may be set aside if one party has put unfair and improper pressure on the other in the negotiations leading up to the contract. The courts of equity have developed undue influence as one of the grounds of relief to prevent abuse of the influence of one person over another, particularly where the influence results from the nature of the relationship between the parties. The chapter examines types of undue influence, actual undue influence, presumed (or evidential) undue influence, undue influence exercised by a third party, the legal effect of undue influence, and the relationship between undue influence and unconscionability.

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