A contract can be challenged by one of the parties to the contract if they claim their assent was not genuine because they were subject to undue influence. Undue influence is said to exist if an inordinate amount of pressure is placed upon a party to enter into a contract against their best interests. Undue influence cannot be invoked by a party simply because they are in a detrimental contract.
Undue influence is usually only claimed in the event that the party is in a relationship wherein another person is able to influence their decisions. Normally undue influence can only be successfully claimed by a minor or an elderly person who has a guardian responsible for overseeing their legal or financial obligations.
Other relationships in which undue influence may arise include attorney-client relationships, doctor-patient relationships, and the relationships between the beneficiaries of a trust and the individual responsible for managing the trust.
An occurrence of undue influence can be difficult to establish conclusively in court. There is sometimes an automatic presumption of undue influence by the courts. A presumption of undue influence can be established if the party in the superior position influenced the dependent party to agree to a contract that benefited the superior party.
If the dependent party challenges a party that they were influenced to create by their guardian, the courts are likely to issue a presumption of undue influence because they believe that if the contract did not arise due to undue influence, then the dependent would not be challenging the contract.
The guardian involved in a court case in which the genuineness of assent in a contractual dispute involves a presumption of undue influence often bears the responsibility of disproving the charge filed against them by their ward. The undue influence charge is often repudiated by presenting evidence that the ward inquired about the terms of the contract or was afforded the opportunity to consult with an independent party that did not have a direct stake in the contractual negotiations that are being challenged.
The guardian can disprove that there has been an occurrence of undue influence even if there was a benefit conveyed to the guardian if they can demonstrate that the ward received a full disclosure of the benefit that the guardian would derive from the contract. If the guardian can prove that full disclosure was presented to the ward, that the ward obtained independent analysis of the benefits that all involved parties would receive, then the presumption of undue influence can be disproven.
In the event that undue influence is found to have existed by the courts, the courts will declare the contract to be voidable by the ward. Undue influence, however, cannot be claimed by a ward that acted upon the innocent advice of their guardian yet was harmed by the contract in a way that did not benefit the guardian.