During the contract drafting process every attention must be paid to ensuring that an illegal contract is not created. As a result, individuals responsible for contract drafting employ several safeguards to attempt to decrease the probability that they create an illegal contract.
Some of these preventative methods include using boilerplate language, which are terms used in a majority of contract drafting negotiations, as well as employing lawyers or people with a legal background in the contract drafting. However, even when these safeguards are employed, illegal contracts can still result.
Even if illegality is found to exist in a contract, it may still be enforceable in pari delicto, then a legal contract will not be ruled to exist.
If the violation of the law in question is not of a serious nature, then the illegal contract may be enforced as if it were a legal contract. If the compensation that would have to be provided in the event the contract was declared illegal would be out of proportion to the infraction of the concerned law, then the contract may be enforced as if it were a legal contract. The agreement may also be treated as a legal contract if the court determines that there would be an unjust enrichment to one of the parties in the event that the contract drafting was set aside.
If a contract is ruled to be illegal after actions have been done by one of the parties which cost money, the idea of quantum meruit may come into play. Under quantum meruit, which means “as much as deserved,” an individual may be able to recoup expenses in proportion to their outlay of money for services performed in an illegal contract if they performed the actions under the belief they were executing a legal contract.
Unlike in a legal contract, quantum meruit does not entitle the individual invoking it to hold the other person liable for the terms of the contract. This legal concept only allows the individual to recoup their losses.