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WEAK PARTY IN BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS CONTRACT: STANDARDS AND BURDEN OF PROOF

JUDICIAL AUTHORITY AND PRACTICE


A.F. BAKULIN, А.V. KUZMINA

A.F. BAKULIN,
Senior Lecturer, Department of Civil Law and Procedure,
Law Faculty, Mari State University,
Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation

А.V. KUZMINA,
Candidate of Legal Sciences, Associate Professor,
Department of Civil Law and Procedure, Law Faculty, Mari State University,
Honored Lawyer of the Republic Mari El

DOI: 10.24031/2226-0781-2020-10-2-203-250

The requirement of good faith must be respected by both the parties of business-to-business
contract and participants of commercial proceedings. In authors’ opinion, weak party of the
contract is a generally non-professional party lacking business sophistication in certain field
which is obliged to pay for goods, work and service. The core of legal weakness of contractual
party is its inequal bargaining power vis-à-vis counterparty. Weak party takes an extremely
difficult procedural position, which requires it to prove opponent’s unconscionable behavior
and justify its own vulnerability. The subject of proving includes the circumstances of
limiting weak party’s bargaining power, the facts of inability to influence the content
of unfair terms, and other burdensome imposing of mutual rights and obligations by
counterparty in violation of reasonable balance of parties’ interests. The article raises
the question of creating a doctrine of the weak party in commercial proceeding, based on
rules of allocation the burden of proof. The procedural weakness of the party arises from
its civil-law contractual inequality and is compensated by shifting the burden of proof to
the strong opponent with establishing it special increased standards of proof. For courts
it will mean that the burden of proving the party’s good faith in negotiation and fairness
of contractual terms must be imposed on the drafter of the contract. To the contrary, the
weak party is enough to point out the burdensome terms and confirm the impossibility of
negotiating them at the time of contract’s conclusion. In the context of subject matter and
burden of proof the authors made an analysis of the court practice on resolving cases about
inequality of bargaining power and reviewing unfair terms upon the claim on changing or
terminating the contract and declaring the unfair contractual term void.

Keywords: good faith; weak contractual party; inequality of bargaining power; unfair
contract terms; standard of proof; burden of proof.

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Information about the author

A.F. Bakulin (Yoshkar-Ola, Russia) – Senior Lecturer, Department of Civil Law and
Procedure, Law Faculty, Mari State University, Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation
(1 Lenin Sq., Yoshkar-Ola, 424001, Russia; e-mail: a38.abakulin@arbitr.ru).

А.V. Kuzmina (Yoshkar-Ola, Russia) – Candidate of Legal Sciences, Associate
Professor, Department of Civil Law and Procedure, Law Faculty, Mari State University,
Honored Lawyer of the Republic Mari El (1 Lenin Sq., Yoshkar-Ola, 424001, Russia;
e-mail: tsyplenkova@mail.ru).

Recommended citation

Bakulin A.F., Kuzmina A.V. Slabaia storona predprinimatel’skogo dogovora: standarty
i bremia dokazyvaniia [Weak Party in Business-to-Business Contract: Standards
and Burden of Proof]. Vestnik grazhdanskogo protsessa – Herald of Civil Procedure,
2020, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 203–250. (In Russ.) https://doi.org/10.24031/2226-0781-2020-
10-2-203-250

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