Definition of adhesion contract
- A standard form contract (sometimes referred to as an adhesion contract or boilerplate contract) is a contract between two parties that does not allow for negotiation, i.e. take it or leave it. It is often a contract that is entered into between unequal bargaining partners, such as when an individual is given a contract by the salesperson of a multinational corporation. The consumer is in no position to negotiate the standard terms of such contracts and the company's representative often does not have the autonomy to do so.
Common law status (United States)
Contracts of adhesion
The concept of the contract of adhesion originated in French civil law, but did not enter American jurisprudence until the Harvard Law Review published an influential article by Edwin W. Patterson in 1919. It was subsequently adopted by the majority of American courts, especially after the Supreme Court of California endorsed adhesion analysis in 1962. See Steven v. Fidelity & Casualty Co., 58 Cal. 2d 862, 882 n.10 (1962) (reciting history of concept) .
For a contract to be treated as a contract of adhesion, it must be presented on a standard form on a �take it or leave it� basis, and give the purchaser no ability to negotiate because of their unequal bargaining position. The special scrutiny given to contracts of adhesion can be performed in a number of ways:
- If the term was outside of the reasonable expectations of the person who did not write the contract, and if the parties were contracting on an unequal basis, then it will not be enforceable. The reasonable expectation is assessed objectively, looking at the prominence of the term, the purpose of the term and the circumstances surrounding acceptance of the contract.
- Section 211 of the American Law Institute's Restatement (Second) of Contracts, which has persuasive though non-binding force in courts, provides:
Where the other party has reason to believe that the party manifesting such assent would not do so if he knew that the writing contained a particular term, the term is not part of the agreement.
This is a subjective test focusing on the mind of the seller and has been adopted by only a few state courts.
- The doctrine of unconscionability is a fact-specific doctrine arising from equitable principles. Unconscionability in standard form contracts usually arises where there is an "absence of meaningful choice on the part of one party due to one-sided contract provisions, together with terms which are so oppressive that no reasonable person would make them and no fair and honest person would accept them." (Fanning v. Fritz's Pontiac-Cadillac-Buick Inc.)
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.