In the recent case of Classic Deco Pty Ltd v Fine Touch Pty Ltd [2020] ACTSC 209 the ACT Supreme Court considered whether deeds between two subcontractors were voidable due to economic duress. The matter involved four contracts for various projects. In each contract, the defendant engaged the plaintiff as a subcontractor, and for each case, the plaintiff argued that a deed poll signed as a condition of receiving final payment from the defendant was entered into under economic duress and was consequently voidable. The defendant’s conduct included withholding progress payments, denying the plaintiff the ability to check calculations within the deeds, denying the plaintiff the ability to receive necessary source documents, and asserting that if the deeds remained unsigned the plaintiff would not receive any payment. The plaintiff thus sought to have the deeds declared void, and to claim the money that was outstanding under the contracts. The Court held in that case that the plaintiff’s evidence was manifestly inadequate to establish that the deeds were entered into under economic duress. The case demonstrates that the legal test for economic duress is difficult to establish.

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