Duress by a third party

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(I'm on page 209, Section 175 (2).)

Suppose that my little sister needs a date to the prom. Unbeknownst to her, I call up Harold, the 18-year-old captain of the High School Chess Team, and tell him that if he fails to escort my sister to the prom, his prized collection of 15th-century chess pieces will be ground into powder. He asks my sister to the prom--in fact, because he's so concerned for the safety of his pieces, he writes a little "check yes or no" note, and sends me a copy of the note with the "yes" box checked and initialed by my sister.

My question is this: since my sister was acting in good faith and without reason to know of the duress, is the contract no longer voidable if she relies materially by purchasing a prom dress?


(For the record, my dear sister is perfectly capable of getting her own prom dates.)

-- Anonymous, October 10, 1998


The contract most likely remains voidable. Your sister's (hypothetical) claim of reliance in the purchase of a prom dress will be weakened by the fact that the prom dress, before it is worn, can most likely be returned for either full refund or store credit. Perhaps if your sister had instead gone out and purchased a few yards of imported silk and invested the time and effort of a) designing a dress and/or b) making it herself and/or invested the money in c) taking it to a tailor, then her claim of reliance would be bolstered and the voidability of the contract nullified.

-- Anonymous, October 13, 1998

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