What Are Vitiating Elements in Contract Law?

Vitiating elements of contracts are things that make a contract void, and the existence of such elements invalidate and negate the full terms of the legal document, according to the Social Science Research Network. Examples of such elements are mistakes in the contract, overall illegality of portions of the document, misrepresentation of facts, duress and undue influence.

Law Teacher explains that misrepresentation occurs when one party makes a false statement that induces another party to enter into a contract. Fraudulent misrepresentations are made when one party knows that a particular statement is false. Mistakes either nullify the contractual agreement or negate the contract. Nullifying mistakes are mistakes with regard to quality of product or service that makes the contract impossible to perform. Mistakes that negate a contract are made unknowingly by both parties.

Duress refers to one or both parties that are forced to enter a contract against the will of that party. Threats of illegal behavior or economic loss are two examples of duress in contract negotiations. Law Teacher reveals undue influence refers to one or more parties that may be influenced to enter a contract due to some other factor or party. Undue influence is similar to duress in that outside circumstances prevent the fulfillment of a contract. Illegality refers to part of a contract that are written specifically to engage in illegal behavior. Judicial systems determine the illegality of contracts.