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Rescission

By Agreement

Mutual rescission, or rescission by agreement, is a discharge of both parties from the obligations of a contract by a new agreement made after the execution of the original contract but prior to its performance. Rescission by mutual assent is separate from the right of one of the parties to rescind or cancel the contract for cause, or pursuant to a provision in the contract.

The parties to an executory or incomplete contract can rescind it at any time by mutual agreement, even if the contract itself contains a contrary provision. A rescission by mutual assent can properly include a promise by either or both parties to make restitution as part of the contract of rescission.

The right to rescind is limited to the parties to the contract or those legally authorized to act for them. As with other contracts, the parties to the rescission agreement must be mentally competent.

Form The rescission agreement can be either written or oral. An implied agreement is also effective, provided the assent of the parties can be shown by their acts and the surrounding circumstances. An express rescission of a contract as a whole is adequate and effective, without specifically designating each and every clause to be rescinded.

Unless a statute provides otherwise, an oral rescission agreement is valid, even though the contract being rescinded contains a provision that it can be altered only in writing.

Assent All the parties to the contract must assent to its rescission because mutual rescission involves the formation of a new contract. A meeting of minds can be reached by an offer to rescind and an acceptance by the other party. One party to a contract cannot rescind it simply by giving notice to the other party that he or she intends to do so.

Although a breach of contract by one party is not an offer to rescind, the other party can treat the repudiation as an offer to rescind that he or she can accept, leading to rescission of the contract by mutual assent. Rescission must be clearly expressed, however, and the conduct of the parties must be inconsistent with the existence of the contract. The fact that some of the materials that form part of the subject matter of the contract have been returned is not conclusive as to whether rescission has occurred.

Consideration An agreement to rescind a prior contract must be based on a sufficient consideration, an inducement. When a contract remains executory on both sides, an agreement to rescind by one side is sufficient consideration for the agreement to cancel on the other, and vice versa. If the contract has been executed on one side, an agreement to rescind that is made without any new consideration is void, that is to say of no legal force or binding effect.

Operation and Effect The mutual rights of the parties are controlled by the terms of their rescission agreement. The parties are generally restored to their original rights in regard to the subject matter. They no longer have any rights or obligations under the rescinded contract, and no claim or action for subsequent breach can be maintained.

Whether rights or obligations already accrued are abandoned when the contract is rescinded in the COURSE OF PERFORMANCE depends on the intention of the parties, as deduced from all attending facts and circumstances, and on whether the parties have reserved such rights. Recovery can be allowed, however, for partial performance.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Reputation to Owen Josephus RobertsRescission - By Agreement, Wrong Or Default Of Adverse Party, Nonperformance Or Breach - Inadequate Consideration, Time