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Reconsidering Independent Advice: A Framework for Analysing Two-Party and Three-Party Cases


Felicity Maher and Stephen Puttick

What is the significance of the receipt of independent advice by the plaintiff in a claim to set aside a transaction on the basis of a vitiating factor – such as duress, undue influence or unconscionable conduct? The generally held view has been that it is highly significant. Indeed, the receipt of advice has been understood as an answer to many such claims. The High Court of Australia’s decision in Thorne v Kennedy apparently changes this. Although that case concerned advice in relation to binding financial agreements under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), the decision has important implications across banking, commercial and other areas of practice. This article, then, offers a reanalysis of this question in light of this decision and other developments. The authors propose a new framework – based around two key questions – for conceptualising the function and significance of independent advice in a particular case. The article considers and develops this framework with regard to the main general law vitiating factors in both two-party and three-party cases.

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(2020) 43(1) UNSWLJ 218: