Difference Between Duress and Undue Influence

Duress vs Undue Influence

Both duress and undue influence are terms that are used more by lawyers and judges than people in daily lives. While undue influence is use of means that are not justified to secure position of strength or power in a contract against another party, duress is a term that refers to a situation where a person performs an act under the threat of violence or any other pressure that may be unjust. Though at times the distinction between these two terms becomes blurred, this article is meant to highlight the differences between duress and undue influence to help people understand how and why they are used in a court of law.

Undue Influence

As the name implies, undue influence takes place when a person tries to take advantage of a position of power over another person or party. If someone who feels he is the aggrieved party in a contract, and his attorney proves in a court of law that the other party has used undue influence to gain advantage in a contract with the aggrieved party, the court can declare the contract as null and void, and also order compensation if the court feels it is due.


If a person can prove in a court of law that he is a victim of coercion and signed a contract as he was being threatened indirectly or directly, this is referred to as a case of duress. For duress to be proved, the victim has to tell the court exact circumstances that were created to make him act in a way that he or she would otherwise not act in normal circumstances. Duress is also used in jurisprudence by attorneys to get a person convicted if he exploits a woman sexually or makes her do something that she would not do otherwise. It is also used to justify an act that is considered unlawful to get a lenient sentence from the jury. Duress is a widely used concept in jurisprudence and is applicable in a variety of cases.

Difference Between Duress and Undue Influence

• While a person takes undue advantage of another person in both undue influence and duress, there is use of threat in veiled or real form in duress but there is no threatening in undue influence

• The victim performs in a manner that he would not otherwise in both undue influence as well as duress but while he performs under fear in duress, these is perceived dominance of the other party that makes him act in a manner that he would not otherwise.