An actual or a threatened violence or restraint of a man’s person, contrary to law, to compel him to enter into a contract, or to discharge one. 1 Fairf. 325. 2. Sir William Blackstone divides duress into two sorts: First. Duress of imprisonment, where a man actually loses his liberty. If a man be illegally deprived of his liberty until he sign and seal a bond, or the like, he may allege this duress, and avoid the bond. But, if a man be legally imprisoned, and either to procure his discharge, or on any other fair account, seal a bond or a deed, this is not by duress of imprisonment, and he is not at liberty to avoid it. Where the proceedings at, law are a mere pretext, the instrument may be avoided. Aleyn, 92; 1 Bl. Com. 136. 3. Second. Duress per minas, which is either for fear of loss of life, or else for fear of mayhem, or loss of limb,; and this must be upon a sufficient reason. 1 Bl. Com. 131. In this case, a man way avoid his own act. Id. Lord Coke enumerates four instances in which a man may avoid his own act by reason of menaces: 1st. For fear of loss of life. 2d. Of member. 3d. Of mayhem. 4th. Of imprisonment. 4. In South Carolina, duress of goods, under circumstances of great hardship, will avoid a contract. 2 Bay R. 211 Bay, R. 470. But see Hardin, R. 605; 2 Gallis. R. 337. 5. In Louisiana consent to a contract is void if it be produced by violence or threats, and the contract is invalid. Civ. Code of Louis. art. 1844. 6. It is not every degree of violence or any hind of threats, that will invalidate a contract; they must be such as would naturally operate on a person of ordinary firmness, and inspire a just fear of great injury to person, reputation or fortune. The age, sex, state of health; temper and disposition of the party, and 0ther circumstances calculated to give greater or less effect to the violence or threats, must be taken into consideration. Id. art. 1845. The author of Fleta states the rule of the ancient common law thus: Est autem metus praesentis vel futuri periculi causa mentis trepidatio; est praesertim viri constantis et non cujuslibet vani hominis vel meticulosi et talis debet esse metus qui in se contineat, mortis periculum, vel corporis cruciatura. 7. A contract by violence or threats, is void, although the party in whose favor the contract is made, and not exercise the violence or make the threats, and although he were ignorant of them. Id. 1846. 8. Violence or threats are cause of nullity, not only where they are exercised on the contracting party, but when the wife, the husband, the descendants or ascendants of the party are the object of them. Id. 1847. Fleta adds on this subject: et exceptionem habet si sibi ipsi inferatur vis et metus verumetiam si vis ut filio vel filiae, patri vel fratri, vel sorori et ahis domesticis et propinquis. 9. If the violence used be only a legal constraint, or the threats only of doing that which the party using them had a right to do, they shall not invalidate the contract A just and legal imprisonment, or threats of any measure authorized by law, and the circumstances of the case, are of this description. Id. 1850. See Norris Peake’s Evid. 440, and the cases cited also, 6 Mass. Rep. 506, for the general rule at common law. 10. But the mere forms of law to cover coercive proceedings for an unjust and illegal cause, if used or threatened in order to procure the assent to a contract, will invalidate it; an arrest without cause of action, or a demand of bail in an unreasonable sum, or threat of such proceeding, by this rule invalidate a contract made under their pressure. Id. 1851. 11. All the above, articles relate to cases where there may be some other motive besides the violence or threats for making the contract. When, however, there is no other cause for making the contract, any threats, even of slight injury, will invalidate it.
Law Dictionary – Alternative Legal Definition
Law Dictionary – Alternative Legal Definition
v. To subject to duress. A word used by Lord Bacon. “If the party duressed do make any motion,” etc. Bac. Max. 89, reg. 22.
(noun) – Unlawful constraint exercised upon a man whereby he is forced to do some act against his will. It may be either “duress of imprisonment” where the person is deprived of his liberty in order to force him to compliance, or by violence, beating, or other actual injury, or duress per minas, consisting in threats of imprisonment or great physical Injury or death. Duress may also include the same injuries, threats, or restraint exercised upon the man’s wife, child, or parent. Duress consists in any illegal imprisonment, or legal imprisonment used for an illegal purpose, or threats of bodily or other harm, or other means amounting to or tending to coerce the will of another, and actually Inducing him to do an act contrary to his free will. Code Ga. 1882, s 2637.
By duress, in its more extended sense, is meant that degree of severity, either threatened or impending or actually inflicted, which is sufficient to overcome the mind auri will of a person of ordinary firmness. Duress per minus is restricted to fear of loss of life, or of mayhem, or loss of limb, or other remediless harm to the person. Fellows v. School Dist, 39 Me. 559. Duress of imprisonment. The wrongful imprisonment of a person, or the illegal restraint of his liberty, in order to compel him to do some act. 1 Bl. Comm. 130, 131, 136, 137; 1 Steph. Comm. 137; 2 Kent, Comm. 453. Duress per minas. Duress by threats. The use of threats and menaces to compel a person, by the fear of death, or grievous bodily harm, as mayhem or loss of limb, to do some lawful act, or to commit a misdemeanor. 1 Bl. Comm. 130; 4 Bl. Comm. 30; 4 Steph. Comm. 83. See METUS.