Signing a contract under duress in Canada: What you need to know
Contractual agreements are important, as they set the terms and conditions that govern the relationship between the parties. However, you should not be made to sign a contract under duress or coercion. If you do sign a contract under duress, it may be considered invalid.
What is duress?
Duress refers to a situation where one party coerces another into doing something against their will. In the context of contract law, duress arises when one party threatens another party with harm unless they agree to sign a contract. For example, if an employer tells an employee that they will be fired if they do not sign a new employment contract that contains unfavorable terms, this can be considered duress.
What constitutes duress?
Duress can come in different forms, such as physical force or emotional pressure. In general, a claim of duress requires the following elements:
• Threats or pressure from one party
• No reasonable alternative for the other party
• Signing of the contract was caused by the threats or pressure
Note that the threats or pressure need not be explicit or verbal. In some cases, even a subtle threat or an implied threat can constitute duress.
What happens if you signed a contract under duress?
If you signed a contract under duress, you may have the option to have the contract declared void. This means that the contract is no longer enforceable, and the parties are released from their obligations under the contract. However, it is important to note that the onus is on the party alleging duress to prove that it existed. This can be difficult, as it often involves proving a negative (i.e., proving that there were no reasonable alternatives).
What should you do if you are faced with duress?
If you are faced with duress, it is important to seek legal advice right away. Your lawyer can advise you on your options and help you determine whether the contract can be declared void. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a new contract with more favorable terms. In any case, it is important to act quickly, as the longer you wait, the harder it may be to prove that duress existed.
In conclusion, signing a contract under duress is not only unethical, but it may also be illegal. If you believe that you have signed a contract under duress, seek legal advice immediately. A lawyer can help you determine your options and protect your rights.