Void and Voidable Contracts Void Contracts: A contract is void if it is worthless, that is, not
really a contract at all. Some contracts made by minors, for example,
are automatically void. Contracts may be declared void on the basis
that they oblige the contracting parties to commit illegal acts.
Damages cannot be claimed by a party injured by attempting to comply
with a void contract. For example, if I contract to pay someone to
shoot a TV game show host, and the would-be murderer decides to take
the money and run without satisfying his part of the deal, then the
courts will not assist me to recover the money. The illegality need
not be as serious as murder for this to be the case. Some contracts
may not be strictly void, but can be declared void. The distinction is
important because when goods or property are exchanged under a
voidable contract, title is passed. With a void contract no title
passes, because effectively the contract never existed.
Voidable Contracts: Unlike a void contract, whose legal status is as
if it never existed, a voidable contract is one that remains in force
until it is declared void by one of the contracting parties. For
example, one of the parties may fraudulently misrepresent a service to
be offered. The offended party may then declare the contract void and
refuse to be bound by it. However, if goods are exchanged under the
contract before it is voided, then title is passed. With a void
contract no title passes, because effectively the contract never
1. In this case Karen orders a sofa and when it is delivered, finds it
is far too large for her living room. She ordered the sofa without
consultation of any sales assistant or knowledgeable persons. This is
a mistake on Karen's part as after inspection of the sofa she thought
that the sofa would fit. In Smith v Hughes  the defendant
thought he was buying 'old oats' as opposed to new ones. In that case
Blackburn J stated: 'â€¦on the sale of a specific article, unless there
be a warranty making it part of the bargain that it possesses some
particular quality, the purchaser must take the article he has bought,
though it does not possess that quality.' Therefore the contract of
the sale of the sofa is valid.
2. In this situation Sid, the owner of Scrumptious Sofas, has
misinformed Karen when telling her the dimensions of the sofa. It must
be noted though that he did not do this knowingly. He had actually
made a mistake when converting the measurements from metric into feet
and inches. This is known as a wholly innocent misrepresentation as
Sid did not intend to give her the wrong measurements.
An innocent misrepresentation is a false statement of fact made by one
party to another, which, whilst not being a...