Legal Word of the Day
Entry: Unconscionable
Pronunciation: un - cohn - schun - uh - bel
Definition: extreme unfairness
Unconscionable is another term often misunderstood by individuals who are not in the legal community. The term unconscionable generally arises in the setting of an unconscionable contract (or unconscionable conduct). Unconscionable is used in contract law to describe a defense against the enforcement of an extremely unfair contract. The term is used as a defense because the party alleging an unconscionable contract does not want to be bound by the terms of the contract, even though that person actually signed the contract.

If a party to a contract agrees that he or she signed the contract, it is usually very difficult for that party to persuade a judge not to enforce the terms of the contract. That’s because when a person signs a contract he or she is generally bound to the terms and conditions of that contract. If judges didn’t enforce contracts, then people could just walk away from their contractual obligations without any penalties and contracts wouldn’t be worth the paper their written on.

But when might an unconscionable defense actually work? Two unconscionable situations might include:
  1. When a party makes a contract with another for the purpose of necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, etc., and the terms of the contract are extremely unfair toward one party.
  2. When a sophisticated party (such as a corporation) includes extremely unfair language about buying a product or service that a typical consumer would not understand and would lead to very unfair conditions for the consumer, if the terms of the contract were enforced.
Keep in mind that what may be considered unconscionable depends on the particular facts of the case and relationship between the parties. Also, remember that an unconscionable defense is a really a defense of "last resort," and very difficult to prove in court.