If a settlement agreement includes a clause that it was signed, "voluntarily and without any duress whatsoever":

  • If a person signing the settlement agreement done so voluntarily and without any duress whatsoever, I cannot see a reason they would require such a clause before signing (as they're doing it voluntarily).

  • Conversely, if a person signing the settlement agreement done so involuntarily and under duress, I cannot see a reason they not sign it given the clause (as they're doing it involuntarily).

  • Additionally, I cannot imagine any settlement agreement would ever include a clause that stated that it was signed, "involuntarily and under duress."

It therefore seems to be redundant in all cases.

The only thing I can think of is that it can be used to void the settlement agreement by allowing the signatory to later state that it was signed involuntarily and under duress.

What is the purpose of it?


2 Answers 2


Recitals in contracts are prima facie evidence that the facts recited in them are true. This could be relevant if trying to secure a default judgment, or if the party who signed the document is no longer available (e.g. due to the death of that person). In the absence of any other evidence, this should prevail.

In theory, the recital is also supposed to warn someone who is being pressured to do something not to sign it at all. As the analysis in the question makes clear, however, people acting involuntarily or under duress may rarely refrain from signing, despite the warning.

It also puts a notary or witness or counterparty to the contract on notice that they shouldn't allow someone to sign it if they appear to be acting involuntarily or under duress.

No catastrophic harm would occur if this phrase were omitted. It is part of a general strategy of defensive legal practice and doesn't hurt the client who is paying to have the contract drafted. It also helps make the agreement sound legal and official which may help the parties and a later court reviewing the parties actions to take it seriously and conclude that it really was intended to be a contract. The client who is paying the lawyer to draft the contact gets no benefit from having a contract that is one sentence shorter, but might get some slight benefit from including additional language.

And, sometimes putting seemingly obvious or stupid statements in a contract does work.

For example, one case I recall involved an employment contract that specifically said that: "It is outside the scope of your duties to assault or attack people or property." The employee then, in a fit of road rage while refueling a company vehicle while on the job sprayed someone else who had cut in front of him at the pump with fuel and set them on fire. The case against the employer for liability for the actions of its employee during the course of the employee's work for the employer was dismissed because the employment contract said that doing this wasn't part of the employee's duties. This is not the fact that I would have found important in resolving the case, but it convinced a judge after the fact.


The only thing I can think of is that it can be used to void the settlement agreement by allowing the signatory to later state that it was signed involuntarily and under duress.

If there was duress, the agreement can potentially be voided regardless of whether it says it can. The clause makes no difference in that regard.

The likely actual purpose is to minimise the likelihood that the signatory who did not draft the agreement will try to void it.

That said, whoever drafted the agreement was likely conscious that the other signatory would be somewhat reluctant to sign it, and would potentially seek to void it later by claiming duress. Making them sign explicit denial of any duress would make them think that trying to void the agreement later would be futile, and so they will likely not try.

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