Under contract law, contracts are defined as agreements involving two or more parties
who have agreed to exchange things that are almost of equal value. In this case Dino
Builders Ltd had entered into two contracts. 1 The first case involved Galaxy Events Ltd
and Dino Builders Ltd while the second contract involved Rapid Plumbers Ltd and Dino
Builders Ltd. Both contracts had conditions which ensured that all parties are bound by
their obligation to perform. For instance Rapid Plumbers Ltd was bound by the obligation
of carrying out the plumbing works on the warehouse before 28 th January 2020. Dino
Builders Ltd was paying ₤ 40,000 while Rapid Builders Ltd was required to fulfill its
obligation by performing the required plumbing works. More specifically the requirement
of the plumbing work being completed before 28 th January 2020 amounted to a condition
A condition precedent means that a certain condition of the contract must be met by the
performing party before the other party is obligated to fulfill its end of the bargain. Rapid
Plumbers Ltd was the performing party because it was required to carry out plumbing
works before 28 th January 2020. It is upon completion of this obligation that Dino
Builders Ltd would be obligated to pay the agreed price. Failure by Rapid Plumbers Ltd
to perform its part would lead to a breach of condition. Based on the foregoing Dino
Builders Ltd is not obligated Rapid Plumbers Ltd because the initial bargain as per the
original contract was not upheld.
In addition to that Dino Builders Ltd can rely on the principle of Duress to justify its
action of refusing to pay the additional ₤ 20,000. Duress can be defined as an act of using
psychological and economic pressure as well as threats to force a party to behave in a
manner contrary to their wishes. In this scenario the principle of Duress is envisaged
when on 20 th December 2019 Rapid Plumbers Ltd got in touch with Dino Builders Ltd to
explain that due to an unusual level of staff sickness in the first half of December very
little progress has been made on the plumbing work and they would not be able to
complete the work by 28 th January 2020 unless they paid around 10 of their workers
double time to work over the Christmas and New Year period. The actions of Rapid
1 Samuel Williston, “Rescission for Breach of Warranty” The Harvard Law Review Association, volume 16,
issue 7, (2008) pp. 465-475
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Plumbers Ltd as explained above piled pressure on Dino Builders Ltd because it had a
deadline to meet as per the contract with Galaxy Events Ltd. Rapid Plumbers Ltd caused
economic duress by expressly stating: “if you want the job done on time you will agree to
the extra ₤ 20,000.” Rapid Plumbers Ltd had full knowledge that Dino Builders Ltd had a
strict deadline to deliver the premises to Galaxy Events Ltd.
In order to prove duress, certain requirements need to be met:-
(i) The party is in immediate threat of serious bodily or financial harm. The threat made
to the victim must be constant. 2 For instance the threat issued by Rapid Plumbers Ltd was
immediate since they knew the deadlines involved with the contracts.
(ii) The party believes that the perpetrator of the act will carry out the threat. The fear of
the threat is justifiable if a reasonable party would likely experience the same level of
fear when faced with the same threat. Had Dino Builders Ltd not agreed to the new terms
proposed by Rapid Plumbers Ltd then they would have carried on with the threat.
(iii) There is no opportunity to escape safely, except by breaching the contract. 3 In this
case Dino Builders Ltd was pushed to the wall with zero options. The additional terms
proposed by Rapid Plumbers Ltd were accepted under duress.
Based on the requirements listed above, it is quite obvious that Dino Builders Ltd acted
under duress from Rapid Plumbers Ltd. There are two main categories of duress in
contract law. The first category is physical duress and the second category is economic
duress. 4 In this situation economic duress perfectly applies to the scenario at hand.
Economic duress happens when one party uses unprecedented economic pressure to
coerce another party into a contract that they would otherwise not agree to. This can also
happen when one party agrees to enter into another contract. Rapid Plumbers Ltd took
advantage of the situation and ensured that Dino Builders Ltd was arm twisted into
accepting the additional terms of the contract. The court may rescind the contract based
on the fact that Dino Builders Ltd acted under duress.
However there are certain requirements that need to be demonstrated in order for a party
to prove that it acted out of economic duress :-
2 Trollope and Colls Ltd vs North West Regional Hospital Board (1973)
3 Schuler AG vs Wickman Machine Tool Sales Ltd (1974)
4 J.P. Dawson, “Economic Duress – An Essay in Perspective” (1947) 45 (3) Michigan Law Review 253-290
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There must be an existing contract between the two parties involved. 5 In this case
Dino Builders Ltd and Rapid Plumbers Ltd already had existing contract of ₤
40,000. This contract was binding on both parties.
One party threatens to frustrate the existing contract. 6 Rapid Plumbers Ltd
threatened to stall the work past the delivery date and that is why Dino Builders
Ltd had to give in and accept the additional terms.
The other party accepts entering into the new contract under the duress that the
other party will frustrate or refuse to abide by the terms of the existing contract. 7
Dino Builders Ltd accepted to pay an additional ₤ 20,000 because Rapid
Plumbers Ltd had expressly stated that: “if you want the job done on time you
will agree to the extra ₤ 20,000”. This piled pressure on Dino Builders Ltd who
had an obligation to honor the contract that they had with Galaxy Events Ltd.
Based on the foregoing, Dino Builders Ltd has the right to refuse to pay Rapid Plumbers
Ltd the additional ₤ 20,000 because the additional terms were entered into while under
duress. The courts in Occidental Worldwide Investment vs Skibs (The Sibeon & The
Sibotre)  1 Lloyds Rep 293 held that economic duress is sufficient reason for a
party to render a contract voidable. All that the party was required to prove is that there
was a coercion of the will thus consent was forced. In addition to that the court
established that economic duress has a certain threshold of factors that need to be met.
Dino Builders Ltd is duly protected under the law therefore they have a basis for refusal
of paying the additional ₤ 20,000 being claimed by Rapid Plumbers Ltd. In addition to
that, Dino Builders Ltd can sue Rapid Plumbers Ltd for breach and violation of the
original terms and conditions of the initial contract. A condition goes to the root of a
contract therefore it amounts to serious breach and warrants a party to be compensated.
5 J. Dalzell, “Duress by Economic Pressure” (1942) 20 North Carolina Law Review 237-277
6 P.S. Atiyah, “Economic Duress and the Overborne Will” (1982) L.Q.R 197, 200
7 D. Tan, “Constructing a Doctrine of Economic Duress” (2002) 18 Const.L J.87
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Articles and Journals
Samuel Williston, “Rescission for Breach of Warranty” The Harvard Law Review
Association, volume 16, issue 7, (2008) pp. 465-475
J.P. Dawson, “Economic Duress – An Essay in Perspective” (1947) 45 (3) Michigan Law
J. Dalzell, “Duress by Economic Pressure” (1942) 20 North Carolina Law Review 237-
P.S. Atiyah, “Economic Duress and the Overborne Will” (1982) L.Q.R 197, 200
D. Tan, “Constructing a Doctrine of Economic Duress” (2002) 18 Const. L J.87
Trollope and Colls Ltd vs North West Regional Hospital Board (1973)
Schuler AG vs Wickman Machine Tool Sales Ltd (1974)