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Please consider the following situation:

  • A (USA) company makes an offer to a (UK) individual.
  • The company purchases an inbound ticket for the individual.
  • The individual arrives.
  • The individual does not have enough money to purchase an outbound ticket.
  • The company has agreed to pay the individual.
  • The company now insists that a freshly presented contract (which absolutely fails to honour the offer) must be signed in order for the money to be released.
  • The individual is left with the decision -- to either sign the dishonourable contract and release the funds, or remain in the USA illegally.
  • The individual signs the contract, purchases a plane ticket and leaves the country.

The company has demonstrably exploited the situation of the individual in order to coerce signing a contract.

Subsequently the individual wishes to force the company by law to honour the original agreement (which is from the President in writing (email)).

In a normal situation the signing of the contract would void any prior agreement, and the individual loses their claim.

But does that still apply in this situation? Or does the individual have legal recourse?

  • The dichotomy seems contrived. Another option open to the individual is to refuse to sign, and go to their embassy for assistance in leaving the US. – Nate Eldredge Mar 13 at 14:14
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does the individual have legal recourse?

Not really, as I explain below. In reaching this conclusion, I'm assuming that this question is a follow up of your previous one.

Can a contract signed as an act of submission rather than consent be considered invalid?

Contracts entered under duress or coercion are voidable by the coerced party. However, not every imbalance of [parties'] power amounts to coercion. Coercion/duress refers to circumstances over which the victim could not have realistically prevailed. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts at § 174-177.

The timing of the events is relevant for ascertaining whether signing the contract was the result of coercion rather than the individual's reliance on the company's misrepresentations. Coercion and reliance exclude each other.

The last bullet point in this question ("The individual signs the contract, purchases a plane ticket and leaves the country") gives the impression of immediacy toward the individual's intent to avert a situation of unauthorized stay in the US (given the bullet point that precedes it). That in itself would support a finding of coercion.

The problem is that the immediacy as portrayed in the aforementioned excerpt is inconsistent with your previous question stating that "[o]ver the next 18 months [from signing the interim contract], the individual continues to develop the core technology" (brackets added for clarity, based on the 2nd bullet point in your previous question: "presenting instead an interim contract which the individual signs").

The individual's continued work at/for the company conveys that the individual either relied on the company or took risks. Both scenarios weaken the argument of coercion, and consequently would defeat the individual's efforts to void the signed contract. It is quite predictable that the company would advance (and prove) that argument in court.

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