1st December 2021 -
Our dispute resolution team looks at your rights of redress where you are the victim of a mistake made in a commercial contract
‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake,’ said Napoleon Bonaparte, and many a business advantage has been achieved by not pointing out a mistake or an omission by the other side in a deal or negotiation. But what can you do if you do notice that a mistake or omission has been made and this is to your detriment?
If you have entered a business contract which does not accurately reflect the terms that were agreed, or which contains a fundamental error or misunderstanding, then it may be possible for you to apply to the court to have the contract amended or declared void.
However, as Richard Shears, commercial dispute resolution lawyer and founder of Shears Law explains, ‘It is important that you act quickly in seeking the court’s help, as any rights you have to address a contractual mistake may be lost if you do not take appropriate steps within what the court considers to be a reasonable amount of time.’
The law on contractual mistakes
There are four types of contractual mistake recognised in law:
The mistake may relate to:
Before the court will agree to intervene to deal with a contractual mistake, there are set criteria that need to be satisfied. These will vary depending on the type of mistake that has occurred.
The criteria for unilateral mistakes
For example, to prove that there has been a unilateral mistake which justifies a written agreement being amended (or rectified, to use the correct legal terminology), the party seeking to challenge the contract (Party A) needs to be able to establish that:
Powers of the court to intervene
The court has wide ranging powers when it comes to dealing with a contractual mistake. However, the exercise of these powers is discretionary and you will therefore need to present a compelling case to convince the court that an order in your favour ought to be made.
Among the things that you might be entitled to ask the court to do are:
How we can help
Our commercial dispute resolution lawyers specialise in helping businesses to resolve contractual disputes through correspondence, negotiation, face-to-face meetings, mediation and, if all else fails, the instigation of court proceedings.
We can provide an expert opinion on whether a unilateral (or indeed some other type) of contractual mistake has occurred. We will advise you on commercially sensible options for addressing this which recognise both the strength of your position and the desirability of dealing with the dispute as quickly and economically as possible.
Where a claim based on mistake is not feasible, we can consider whether there may be any other action that you can take, such as bringing a claim for breach of contract or for innocent, negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation.
Where legal proceedings need to be issued, we will work closely with you to develop the most compelling or robust defence that we can, depending on whether you are the one alleging that a mistake has occurred or a party who wishes to argue strongly that it has not.
For further information, please contact Richard Shears in our commercial dispute resolution team on 07973 845055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.Back to News & Views