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Posted in Construction

“I didn’t want to sign, but he made me do it; I would have lost a fortune had I refused.” This is the cry of a person who signs a document under economic duress and then wants out of the deal. The law allows for relief when a document is signed under economic duress, but only if stringent criteria are met. A claim for relief due to duress was the subject of Ekum-Sekum Inc. v. Bel-Air Excavating & Grading Ltd., a 2017 Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision.

A fountain pen on a blank lined page.


A claim for relief based on economic duress is usually seen in general contractor – subcontractor scenarios, although it can arise anywhere in the construction ladder. The general asks a sub to perform work; the sub balks unless it gets something (usually money); the general realises it has no alternative and agrees to the sub’s demands; the sub does the work; and the general refuses to pay, citing economic duress.

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