Contracts/Illegality

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Contracts Treatise
Table of Contents
Contracts Outline
Introduction and Definitions
Introduction
Definitions
Elements
Contract formation
Parties
Offer
Acceptance
Intention to Bind
Formal requisites
Mailbox rule
Mirror image rule
Invitation to deal
Firm offer
Consideration
Consent
Implication-in-fact
Collateral contract
Modification
Merger
Uniform Commercial Code
Uniform Commercial Code
Course of dealing
Course of performance
UCC-1 financing statement
Uniform Commercial Code adoption
Defenses against formation
Lack of capacity
Duress
Undue influence
Illusory promise
Statute of frauds
Uncertainty
Non est factum
Contract interpretation
Governing law
Construction and Operation
Parol evidence rule
Contract of adhesion
Integration clause
Contra proferentem
Excuses for non-performance
Mistake
Misrepresentation
Frustration of purpose
Impossibility
Impracticability
Illegality
Unclean hands
Unconscionability
Accord and satisfaction
Rights of third parties
Privity of contract
Assignment
Delegation
Novation
Third-party beneficiary
Performance or Breach
Necessity of performance
Sufficiency of performance
Anticipatory repudiation
Cover
Exclusion clause
Efficient breach
Deviation
Fundamental breach
Termination
Termination
Rescission
Termination and rescission
Abrogation and rescission
Subsequent contract
Termination
Forfeiture
Remedies
Specific performance
Liquidated damages
Punitive damages
Quasi-contractual obligations
Estoppel
Quantum meruit
Actions
Actions in General
Parties to Action
Pleading
Evidence
Questions of Law and Fact
Instructions
Trial and Judgment

An illegal agreement under the common law of contract is one that the court will not enforce because the purpose of the agreement is to achieve an illegal end. The illegal end must result from performance of the contract itself. The classic example of such an agreement is a contract for murder.

However, a contract that requires only legal performance on the part of each party, such as the sale of packs of cards to a known gambler, where gambling is illegal, will nonetheless be enforceable. A contract directly linked to the gambling act itself, such as paying off gambling debts (see proximate cause), however, will not meet the legal standards of enforceability. Therefore, an employment contract between a blackjack dealer and a speakeasy manager, is an example of an illegal agreement and the employee has no valid claim to his anticipated wages if gambling is illegal under that jurisdiction.

In Bovard v. American Horse Enterprises (1988),[1] the California Court of Appeal for the Third District refused to enforce a contract for payment of promissory notes used for the purchase of a company that manufactured drug paraphernalia. Although the items sold were not actually illegal, the court refused to enforce the contract for public policy concerns.

In Canada, one cited case of lack of enforceability based on illegality is Royal Bank of Canada v. Newell, 147 D.L.R (4th) 268 (N.S.C.A.), in which a woman forged her husband's signature on 40 cheques, totalling over $58,000. To protect her from prosecution, her husband signed a letter of intent prepared by the bank in which he agreed to assume "all liability and responsibility" for the forged cheques. However, the agreement was unenforceable, and was struck down by the courts, because of its essential goal, which was to "stifle a criminal prosecution". Because of the contract's illegality, and as a result voided status, the bank was forced to return the payments made by the husband.

Contracts in restraint of trade are a variety of illegal contracts and generally will not be enforced unless they are reasonable in the interests of the contracting parties and the public.

Contracts in restraint of trade if proved to be reasonable can be enforced. When restraint is placed on an ex-employee, the court will consider the geographical limits, what the employee knows and the extent of the duration. Restraint imposed on a vendor of business must be reasonable and is binding if there is a genuine seal of goodwill. Under common law, contracts to fix prices are legal. Sole supplier ("solus") agreements are legal if reasonable. Contracts which contravene public policy are void.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bovard v. American Horse Enterprises, 201 Cal. App. 3d 832, 247 Cal. Rptr. 340 (1988).