Apologies for the late reply - as this thread has been relatively quiet for the past few months, I only check it once every now and then.
Yes, please feel free to send a PM about the legal issue and I will try my best to answer your queries.
Without sighting the exact clause in question, below are my responses to your questions.
1. I cannot say with certainty whether the agency will or will not proceed with legal action. However, more often than not, it is not worth the time and costs to pursue a claim that is only $3k.
2. The response will be provided in point form due to the number of sub-parts
3. The "contract" will still be valid. In contract law, arguing that a contract is void due to duress is likely to succeed only when there are physical threats involved. Thus, being constantly "chased" by the recruiter would not be considered as duress.
- First of all, it may not be easy to find a pro bono lawyer for civil cases, although you may seek legal advice from those legal clinics in the community centres.
- Second, given the quantum of the claim, any legal action will have to be brought before the Small Claims Tribunal and there is no need for legal representation - parties will argue the case before a judge personally.
- Third, your best shot to fight this case is perhaps to argue that (1) the damages (i.e., $3k) is not a genuine pre-estimate of the loss, and (2) even if (1) is true, the agency ought to have mitigated its loss by seeking another candidate.
- The law mandates that all liquidated damages clause (i.e., clauses that fix an amount of money to be paid for breach of contract) must be a genuine pre-estimate of the loss incurred by the innocent party. However, the burden of proof lies on you.
- The law is not settled on whether liquidated damages clauses are subject to the principles of mitigation, but it may be worth a shot if you reach the stage of legal proceedings. This will likely depend on how much time the agency had (to find another candidate) between your repudiation of contract and the actual commencement date of the contract.
4. This is a private matter between you and the agency, so I'm afraid there is no governing body that can help you.
Your best bet is probably to hope that $3k is not worth the troubles for the agency. Otherwise, if this matter is brought to the SCT, you can still counter-offer with a lower amount to settle the case. Please feel free to reach out (either here or via PM) if you have any further question.
Once again, I stress that none of the above constitutes legal advice.
Hi LordDenning, thank for your response and the detailed advice!
The agency has replied me stating they will not be pursuing the case. So I got off scot-free.
Guess I got lucky or the agency really find it not worth the time and cost just for 3K >.<