Legal Terms

Rescission meaning in law and legal documents

Rescission is the cancellation of a contract to return the parties to their positions before the agreement was made.

Normal people might use the word "cancellation" instead of "rescission"

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What does rescission mean in legal documents?

Rescission is a term used in contract law to refer to the undoing or cancellation of a contract, taking both parties back to their positions prior to the agreement. It's a remedy that effectively erases the contract as though it never existed, thereby releasing all parties from their obligations. Rescission can be voluntary, where all parties agree to annul the contract, or it can be ordered by a court if certain conditions are met.

Understanding Rescission

To understand rescission, it's crucial to differentiate it from termination. Termination generally refers to the ending of a contract due to a breach or failure to meet the terms by one of the parties. In contrast, rescission can occur even when there has been no breach. It's typically grounded in reasons such as mutual mistake, misrepresentation, undue influence, or lack of capacity to enter into a contract. The purpose of rescission is to restore the parties to the state they were in before the contract was executed.

Conditions for Rescission

Rescission is not automatically available in all contract disputes. It requires certain legal grounds. One common ground is mutual mistake, where both parties were mistaken about a fundamental fact when entering into the contract. Another is misrepresentation, where one party was misled by the other about a material aspect of the contract. Undue influence or duress, where one party is forced or coerced into the agreement, can also be grounds for rescission. Lastly, if one party lacked the legal capacity to enter into the contract, such as being a minor or mentally incapacitated, rescission can be pursued.

Examples of Rescission

Let's consider a practical example of rescission. Imagine two parties enter into a contract for the sale of a piece of land. After the agreement, it's discovered that the land is actually owned by a third party. Here, the contract could be rescinded because both parties were under a mutual mistake regarding the ownership of the land. Another example might involve a scenario where an elderly person is pressured into signing a contract by a relative. If it's determined that undue influence was used, the contract can be rescinded.

Legal Process of Rescission

If a party seeks rescission, they may initially attempt a voluntary agreement with the other party. If that fails, they will likely need to file a lawsuit and obtain a court order. The court will consider whether there are valid grounds for rescission and whether it is possible to return both parties to their pre-contractual state. If rescission is granted, the court may also order restitution, where any benefits conferred under the contract are returned to the respective parties.


Rescission is an important concept in contract law, offering parties a way to undo a contract when certain legal grounds are present. It is distinct from termination and serves to restore parties to their original positions. Whether you're a business owner, consumer, or legal professional, understanding rescission can help you identify when a contract may be voidable and what legal remedies are available. If you believe you have grounds for rescission, seeking legal advice is a prudent next step to determine the viability of your case and the appropriate legal procedures to follow.

What are some examples of rescission in legal contracts?

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