The Doctrine Of Economic Duress In The English Contract Law

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How has the Court of Appeal’s decision in Williams v Roffey Brothers and Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd [1991] 1 QB 1, made the doctrine of economic duress vitally important in preventing extortion or improper threats in English Contract Law? The general rule in English contract law is freedom of contract, namely that any agreements entered into by parties of full age and capacity, if intended to be legally binding and if supported by consideration, will be treated as legally enforceable by the courts. The English law has, however, recognized two doctrines which provide a means for a claimant to avoid a concluded contract, namely the doctrine of duress and the doctrine of undue influence. There are three types of duress at common law- duress which takes the form of some form of coercion or threat to the person, property, or to a person’s financial interests (economic duress). The doctrine of economic duress is now seen as the primary mechanism to prevent promises obtained by extortion from being enforceable. The doctrine of economic duress is a comparatively new doctrine in the English contract law and it was only recently that the courts have accepted that a contract can be set aside where illegitimate commercial pressure is exerted by one party on the other contracting party. Historically, the doctrine of consideration played a role in regulating duress type situations but it was thought to be inadequate. The recent Court of Appeal decision of Williams v. Roffey Bros. &

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