Consent is an act of reason and deliberation. A person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another. Consent assumes a physical power to act and a reflective, determined, and unencumbered exertion of these powers. It is an act unaffected by Fraud, duress, or sometimes even mistake when these factors are not the reason for the consent. Consent is implied in every agreement. Parties who terminate litigation pursuant to a consent judgment agree to the terms of a decision that is entered into the court record subsequent to its approval by the court. In the context of rape, submission due to apprehension or terror is not real consent. There must be a choice between resistance and acquiescence. If a woman resists to the point where additional resistance would be futile or until her resistance is forcibly overcome, submission thereafter is not consent.
Consideration Each party to a contract must provide something of value that induces the other to enter the agreement. The law calls this exchange of values “consideration.” The value exchanged need not consist of currency. Instead, it may consist of a promise to perform an act that one is not legally required to do or a promise to refrain from an act that one is legally entitled to do. For example, if a rich uncle promises to give his nephew a new sports car if he refrains from smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol for five years, the law deems both the uncle’s promise and the nephew’s forbearance lawful consideration.
A court’s analysis as to whether a contract is supported by sufficient consideration typically focuses more on the promise or performance of the offeree than the promise or performance of the offeror. Courts often say that no consideration will be found unless the offeree suffers a “legal detriment” in making the return promise or in performing the act requested by the offeror. As a general rule, legal detriment is found if the offeree relinquishes a legal right in fulfilling his or her contractual duties. Thus, promises to give love and affection or make a gift or donation are not sufficient consideration to support a contract because no one is under a legal duty to give or refrain from giving these things to others. Similarly a promise to perform an act that has already been completed in the past fails to offer consideration to support a new agreement.
Capacity of parties
A natural person who enters a contract possesses complete legal capacity to be held liable for the duties he or she agrees to undertake, unless the person is a minor, mentally incapacitated, or intoxicated. A minor is defined as a person under the age of 18 or 21, depending on the jurisdiction. A contract made by a minor is voidable at the minor’s discretion, meaning that the contract is valid and enforceable until the minor takes some affirmative act to disavow the contract. Minors who choose to disavow their contracts entered may not be held liable for breach. The law assumes that minors are too immature, naïve, or inexperienced to negotiate on equal terms with adults, and thus courts protect them from being held accountable for unwisely entering contracts of any kind.
When a party does not understand the nature and consequences of an agreement that he or she has entered, the law treats that party as lacking mental capacity to form a binding contract. However, a party will not be relieved from any contractual duties until a court has formally adjudicated the issue after taking evidence concerning the party’s mental capacity, unless there is an existing court order declaring the party to be incompetent or insane. Like agreements with minors, agreements with mentally incapacitated persons are voidable at that person’s discretion. However, a guardian or personal representative may ratify an agreement for an incapacitated person and thereby convert the agreement into a legally binding contract.
Contracts entered into by persons under the influence of alcohol and drugs are also voidable at that person’s discretion, but only if the other party knew or had reason to know the degree of impairment. As a practical matter, courts rarely show sympathy for defendants who try to avoid contractual duties on grounds that they were intoxicated. However, if the evidence shows that the sober party was trying to take advantage of the intoxicated party, courts will typically intervene to void the contract. Persons who are intoxicated from prescription medication are treated the same as persons who are mentally incompetent or insane and are generally relieved from their contractual responsibilities more readily than are persons intoxicated from non-prescription drugs or alcohol.
Having no legal effect or consequence. Contracts, bequests or legal proceedings may be void; these will be severally considered. The invalidity of a contract may arise from many causes. 1. When the parties have no capacity to contract; as in the case of idiots, lunatics, and in some states, under their local regulations, habitual drunkards.
When the contract has for its object the performance of an act malum in se; as a covenant to rob or kill a man, or to commit a breach of the peace.
When the thing to be performed is impossible; as, if a man were to covenant to go from the United States to Europe in one day. But in these cases, the impossibility must exist at the time of making the contract; for although subsequent events may excuse the performance, the contract is not absolutely void; as, if John contract to marry Maria, and, before the time appointed, the covenantee marry her himself, the contract will not be enforced, but it was not void in its creation. It differs from a contract made by John, who, being a married man, and known to the coveiaantee, enters into a contract to marry Maria during the continuance of his existing marriage, for in that case the contract is void.
Contracts against public policy; as, an agreement not to marry any one, or not to follow any business; the one being considered in restraint of marriage, and the other in restraint of trade. When the contract is fraudulent, it is void, for fraud vitiates everything. As to cases when a condition consists of several parts, and some are lawful and others are not, see article Condition.
Voidable, in law, is a transaction or action that is valid but may be annulled by one of the parties to the transaction. Voidable is usually used in distinction to void ab initio (or void from the outset) and unenforceable.
The act of invalidating the contract by the party exercising its rights to annul the voidable contract is usually referred to either as voiding the contract or avoiding the contract.