Void and voidable Contracts.

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Contract Law                Assignment 4

Void Contracts: A contract is void if it is worthless, that is, not really a contract at all. Some contracts made by minors, for example, are automatically void. Contracts may be declared void on the basis that they oblige the contracting parties to commit illegal acts. Damages cannot be claimed by a party injured by attempting to comply with a void contract. For example, if I contract to pay someone to shoot a TV game show host, and the would-be murderer decides to take the money and run without satisfying his part of the deal, then the courts will not assist me to recover the money. The illegality need not be as serious as murder for this to be the case. Some contracts may not be strictly void, but can be declared void. The distinction is important because when goods or property are exchanged under a voidable contract, title is passed. With a void contract no title passes, because effectively the contract never existed.

Voidable Contracts: Unlike a void contract, whose legal status is as if it never existed, a voidable contract is one that remains in force until it is declared void by one of the contracting parties. For example, one of the parties may fraudulently misrepresent a service to be offered. The offended party may then declare the contract void and refuse to be bound by it. However, if goods are exchanged under the contract before it is voided, then title is passed. With a void contract no title passes, because effectively the contract never existed.

  1. In this case Karen orders a sofa and when it is delivered, finds it is far too large for her living room. She ordered the sofa without consultation of any sales assistant or knowledgeable persons. This is a mistake on Karen’s part as after inspection of the sofa she thought that the sofa would fit. In Smith v Hughes [1871] the defendant thought he was buying ‘old oats’ as opposed to new ones. In that case Blackburn J stated: ‘…on the sale of a specific article, unless there be a warranty making it part of the bargain that it possesses some particular quality, the purchaser must take the article he has bought, though it does not possess that quality.’ Therefore the contract of the sale of the sofa is valid.
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  1. In this situation Sid, the owner of Scrumptious Sofas, has misinformed Karen when telling her the dimensions of the sofa. It must be noted though that he did not do this knowingly. He had actually made a mistake when converting the measurements from metric into feet and inches. This is known as a wholly innocent misrepresentation as Sid did not intend to give her the wrong measurements.

An innocent misrepresentation is a false statement of fact made by one party to another, which, whilst not being a term of the contract, induces the other party to ...

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