GLOSSARY

Force Majeure

/ˌfɔːs maˈʒəː/

Definition

‘Force majeure’ translates to 'superior forces' and is a term often used in contracts to refer to events outside of a party’s control which are unexpected and disruptive serving to alleviate a party from its obligations under the contract without liability.
In English law, the expression ‘force majeure’ does not refer to a legal doctrine. As there is no standard meaning or implied definition as to what may amount to a force majeure event, a contract may define what amounts to a force majeure event within its definitions section. The courts have sought to give guidance as to what in specific circumstances are covered by the term and generally, force majeure clauses are interpreted restrictively. Although there is no general definition of a force majeure event, it would likely include events which are not the fault of either party such as war, terrorism, disease outbreaks or nuclear contamination.

Commercial

An unexpected and exceptional event that allows one party to terminate the contract without being liable for damages.
Force majeure is literally translated as 'superior forces', something to overrule a settled state of affairs and cognate with an 'act of God'. In common language it is an unexpected and disruptive event that may operate to excuse a party from its obligations under a contract. The term force majeure is not a technical term with its own clearly defined meaning under English law although it can be drafted as a contractual clause. The courts have sought, through their decisions on individual cases, to give guidance as to what in specific circumstances is and is not covered by the term. However, there remains no clearly defined general definition of a force majeure event.

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