• Startups
  • November 08, 2021

Understanding Force Majeure Clauses

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What is a force majeure clause?


A force majeure clause is one that alters the parties’ obligations and/or liabilities under a contract, if an unforeseen event means one or both cannot perform their contractual obligations.

Force majeure events are normally defined as acts, events, or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the party concerned. 


Is there a force majeure clause in the commercial contract?


A force majeure clause does not have to be expressly labelled as such. What matters is that there is a clause or clauses that provide for what happens next should an unforeseen event which is out of the control of the party seeking to rely on the clause occurs. 

For example, in the UK earthquakes are extremely rare. It is arguable that should a strong earthquake occur in your area and this in some way affects your ability to perform the contract, you can rely on a force majeure clause to protect yourself against a civil claim for breach of contract. However, this would not be the case in a country such as Japan or Turkey where strong, disruptive earthquakes are common because earthquakes are not ‘unforeseen events’ in these regions.

Force majeure clauses can list events that can be covered by the clause but usually, they are general in nature (for example, referring to acts of government, or to performance having to be lawful, or to anything preventing performance that is beyond the party's control).


Do the Courts uphold force majeure clauses?


It is important to note that force majeure is not a concept automatically recognised by the Courts in England and Wales - the parties to the contract must have expressly agreed that it applies. To do otherwise would weaken the principle that if you enter into a contract you are legally bound to fulfil your obligations.

Typically, the Courts view force majeure clauses narrowly and can imply limitations on what you and the other party initially agreed to.


Wrapping up


Relying on a force majeure clause can be extremely complex. A Commercial Law Solicitor can assist you with drafting and interpreting such clauses, ensuring your best interests are always protected.


You can get legal assistance from LawBite


If you are wondering what your contractual obligations are in the circumstance of a force majeure event, you can contact LawBite to discuss your questions with our expert lawyers.

They can give your legal advice and review your contract to make sure your business is protected.

Book a free 15-minute call with one of our expert lawyers who will be happy to give you legal advice and guidance.


Additional useful information

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.



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