A contract may be voided if a party's manifestation of assent is induced by an improper threat -- a violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing -- the contract is therefore not on fair terms, and the victim has no reasonable alternative.
After just having had knee surgery, the patient felt a "pins and needles" sensation in his hands, and a nurse told him it might have been a side-effect from the surgery. At the hospital, the surgeon refused to perform the surgery unless the patient released both him and the hospital from future liability. Although visibly upset, the patient signed the form. The patient then filed a complaint. The court granted the motions for summary judgment of the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the hospital. The patient appealed.
May the release be validly enforced against the patient, thus absolving the doctors of responsibility?
The court reversed and held that the patient did not know nor should have known of his legal injury prior to being told that it could be connected to his knee surgery. Also, a jury could find that the hospital and the surgeon engaged in unfair dealing that increased the effectiveness of their threat to refuse the corrective surgery and that the patient had no reasonable alternatives to signing the release.