The following Dispute Resolution practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
In English law, there is a presumption that everyone has a capacity to contract. However, if you are a minor or you lack the necessary mental capacity or you are a drunken person, that presumption will be rebutted and the contract will not be enforceable.
This Practice Note sets out the scope of the capacity doctrine.
The law presumes that everyone has a capacity to contract.
Any person seeking to rebut that presumption must strictly prove that they belong to one of three classes of individual:
a minor. For the purposes of the law of contract, a 'minor' is any person under 18 (Family Law Reform Act 1969, s 1)
a person lacking the requisite mental capacity
a drunken person
In the case of mental incapacity, abnormal weakness of mind as prevents a person from understanding the nature of a transaction or an absence of knowledge in relation to the subject matter of the transaction will not be sufficient. However, such a person may be able to seek relief at law or in equity on the alternative ground(s) of undue influence or inequality of bargaining power.
Mental incapacity or drunkenness are treated differently because they deprive the sufferer of:
understanding the transaction, and
the awareness that they do not understand it
Contrast the position of the illiterate person who is aware of their lack of understanding
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