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An unintentional act, omission, or error.

Mistakes are categorized as a Mistake of Fact, Mistake of Law, or mutual mistake. A mistake of fact occurs when a person believes that a condition or event exists when it does not. A mistake of law is made by a person who has knowledge of the correct facts but is wrong about the legal consequences of an act or event. A mutual mistake arises when two or more parties have a shared intention that has been induced by a common misbelief.


n. 1) an error in comprehending facts, meaning of words or the law, which causes one party or both parties to enter into a contract without understanding the obligations or results. Such a mistake can entitle one party or both parties to a rescission (cancellation) of the contract. A mistaken understanding of the law (as distinguished from facts) by one party only is usually no basis for rescission since "ignorance of the law is no excuse." 2) an error discovered to be incorrect at a later time. (See: contract, rescission)


verb be deceived, be erroneous, be in the wrong, be misguided, be misled, be mistaken, blunder, bungle, commit an error, confuse, err, fall into error, get wrong, go amiss, go astray, go wrong, identify incorrectly, ignorare, labor under a misapprehension, misapprehend, miscalculate, misconceive, misconstrue, misidentify, misjudge, misread, misunderstand, name inaccuuately, put a false sense on, receive a false impression, reeeive a wrong impression, slip up, stumble
Associated concepts: excusable mistake, harmless error, mistake of fact, mistake of law, mistaken identity, mutual mistake, unilateral mistake
See also: catachresis, defect, err, error, expiration, failure, fallacy, indiscretion, lapse, misapplication, misapprehend, miscalculate, miscarriage, misconstrue, miscue, misdeed, misestimation, misinterpret, misjudge, misjudgment, misread, misstatement, misunderstand, oversight, wrong


a mental conception divergent from the true position. Civilian systems usually discuss the analogous idea of error . In law, mistake can be relevant. Generally a tougher attitude is taken in criminal law where accused persons may try to escape punishment simply by concocting a position based on their state of mind. Whether criminal or civil, more indulgence is given to mistake, of fact as opposed to error of law. ‘I didn't know the gun was loaded,’ is given more of a hearing than, ‘I didn't know it was a crime to kill someone.’ That said, in civil law, a more relaxed attitude can be seen in some errors of law since the late twentieth century.

Operative errors in crime include cases where an alleged rapist thought sex consensual or where a person defends themselves violently thinking their assailant has a knife when they have only a pen. Operative errors in the civil law of contract include where a seller thinks he is selling wheat and the buyer thinks he is renting computers; in family law where a person thinks they are at a fancy dress party but it is really a wedding. In both England and Scotland, the law of restitution allows money paid by mistake to be recovered. In England, in equity, and in Scotland by statute, the court has power to rectify written contracts that do not express the agreement of the parties, a power that in both jurisdictions is subject to detailed rules and qualifications.

MISTAKE, contracts. An error committed in relation to some matter of fact affecting the rights of one of the parties to a contract.
     2. Mistakes in making a contract are distinguished ordinarily into, first, mistakes as to the motive; secondly, mistakes as to the person, with whom the contract is made; thirdly, as to the subject matter of the contract; and, lastly, mistakes of fact and of law. See Story, Eq. Jur. Sec. 110; Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.; Ignorance; Motive.
     3. In general, courts of equity will correct and rectify all mistakes in deeds and contracts founded on good consideration. 1 Ves. 317; 2 Atk. 203; Mitf. Pl. 116; 4 Vin. Ab. 277; 13 Vin. Ab. 41; 18 E. Com. Law Reps. 14; 8 Com. Digest, 75; Madd. Ch. Prac. Index, h.t.; 1 Story on Eq. ch. 5, p. 121; Jeremy's Eq. Jurisd. B. 3, part 2, p. 358. See article Surprise.
     4. As to mistakes in the names of legatees, see 1 Rop. Leg. 131; Domat, l. 4, t. 2, s. 1, n. 22. As to mistakes made in practice, and as to the propriety or impropriety of taking advantage of them, see Chitt. Pr. Index, h.t. As to mistakes of law in relation to contracts, see 23 Am. Jur. 146 to 166.

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