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The purpose of a force majeure clause in a contract

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Employment Contracts

Many Illinois contracts contain a force majeure clause. French civil law is the origin of force majeure, but that many jurisdictions worldwide now use the concept.

The purpose of force majeure

The purpose of force majeure is to relieve certain parties of their contractual obligations in the event of extremely unexpected circumstances. You might hear this term used in situations dealing with commercial litigation.

When does force majeure go into effect?

An extraordinary event must occur before the force majeure clause goes into effect. If the parties involved are unable to fulfill the contract due to circumstances beyond their control, then force majeure applies.

However, the clause only applies if it’s absolutely impossible to fulfill the contract. If there are alternatives to meet the contract obligations, force majeure doesn’t apply.

Events that can trigger force majeure

Force majeure refers to events such as a natural disaster, a deadly pandemic, or an act of war. Keep in mind that these events alone aren’t enough to trigger the clause. The event has to have a direct effect on at least one of the parties that signed the contract. For example, consider the event of a catastrophic earthquake.

Perhaps the earthquake completely destroyed a construction contractor’s warehouse. The warehouse contained materials needed for a major construction project scheduled to begin in two days. It will take several months and thousands of dollars to rebuild the warehouse and replace the lost materials. This situation is beyond the contractor’s control, and force majeure should apply.

However, if the earthquake caused minimal damage, there are no grounds for force majeure. The contractor is expected to fulfill the contract.