Contract Under Duress
In breach of contract litigation, many defenses are often lodged by a defendant to attack the validity of the contract or excuse his/her non-performance under the contract. Common defenses in contract litigation include accord and satisfaction, that there is a contractual ambituity, that the other party committed a first material breach, misrepresentation/fraudulent inducement, unconscionability and duress. These defenses require specific facts to be legally viable.
Duress, for instance, has a relatively high burden of proof to be actionable. To prevail on a duress defense, one must prove that the contract was obtained by so oppressing a person by threats as to deprive him/her of the free exercise of his/her will. Wolf v. St. Louis Public Service Company, 357 S.W.2d 950, 954 (Mo. Ct. App. 1962). Duress, in a contract context, is a condition of mind produced by the wrongful conduct of another which renders a person unable to contract with the exercise of his/her free will. Id. 954-55. It is tantamount to wrongful compulsion and may render the contract void and unenforceable. Id. at 955.
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