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Contracts: Force Majeure

Because contract law is primarily built on case precedent, it is quite vast. Therefore, there are several defenses that exist in a breach of contract action that, while not immediately apparent, are valid. For instance, a rare contractual defense may stem from the existence of a force majeure clause. A force majeure provision — or an escape clause — is language in a contract allocating the risk of performance because of the impossible or impracticable, especially as a result of an event or effect that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled. Clean Uniform Co. v. Magic Touch Cleaning, 300 S.W.3d 602 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009).

The purpose of a general, catch all phrase, such as “causes beyond the parties’ control,” in a force majeure or escape clause is to relieve a party of liability when the parties’ expectations are frustrated due to an unforeseeable occurrence beyond the parties’ control. Id. As such, in a bit of nuance, foreseeable events are usually not encompassed in the catch-all provisions of such a clause and remain subject to the requirements that they must be expressly set out in a contract to relieve a party of liability.

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