Legal English – Peter’s Pills – Lesson 56 – Rescission

Legal English for Notaries - By Federnotizie




Today we look at the meaning of rescission in the common law system. Please be careful. The meaning of rescission may be very different form the meaning in a civil law context.

Rescission is not the same thing as cancellation. Rescission is the undoing of a contract from its beginning. “Rescission of contract” refers to the legal process of undoing (disfacimento) or cancelling a contract as if it never existed, thereby restoring (riportando in questo modo) the parties to their original positions before they entered into the agreement.

The effect of rescission is to restore the parties to their original positions before the contract was formed. This involves returning any consideration (corrispettivo), such as money or property, exchanged between the parties. It may also involve returning goods (merci) or canceling any obligations created by the contract. If this is not possible, then rescission is not the right legal remedy to pursue (intraprendere).

Parties may rescind due to various reasons, for example:

  • Mutual agreement: The parties may agree to rescind the contract by mutual consent. This typically requires the agreement to be in writing and signed by all parties involved;
  • Material breach (violazione sostanziale): If one party commits a significant breach of the contract’s terms or conditions, the non-breaching party (parte non inadempiente) may seek (può richiedere) rescission as a remedy. The breach must be substantial and go to the root of the contract, essentially rendering it unenforceable (rendendolo inefficace);
  • Misrepresentation or fraud (dichiarazioni false o frode): If a party has been induced to enter into (stipulare) a contract based on false statements, misrepresentations (dichiarazioni ingannevoli/errate/false), or fraudulent actions of the other party, they may seek rescission on the grounds of deceit (per inganno) or fraudulent inducement;
  • Mistake: Rescission may be sought (può essere richiesta) if there has been a mutual mistake or a unilateral mistake by one party that significantly affects the substance of the contract. The mistake must be material (sostanziale/ significativo) and relate to a fundamental aspect of the agreement;
  • Duress or undue influence (coercizione o indebito condizionamento): If a party was coerced, threatened (minacciata), or subjected to (sottoposta a) undue influence that affected their free will in entering into the contract, they may seek rescission.

Remember, the purpose of rescission is to restore the status quo ante, ie the state of affairs existing before the contract was entered into.

Thank you, and see you next time for more Peter’s Pills to improve your legal English.

Read more about rescission in the UK here: “Rescission: contract law remedy (bars, misrepresentation, mistake and fraud)“.

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