Legal Blog

Hurricane Irma: When an “Act of God” Makes Contractual Performance Impossible

Before Irma was even on the minds of Southwest Floridians, life was as normal and business was as usual. People, as they normally do, entered into contracts: contracts for construction of homes, purchase or rental of homes, maintenance, landscaping, remodeling, and anything else you can name.

Then, Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on Southwest Florida, devastating communities, homes, and the lives of many Southwest Floridians. While we are still in the long process of recovery, life is slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy.

But what if, as a result of the storm, a party to a contract is no longer able to fulfill its obligations? Under a doctrine called “impossibility of performance” Florida common law may provide relief for such parties.

Under the doctrine of impossibility of performance, “a party that contracts absolutely and unqualifiedly to do something that is possible to be accomplished must make the promise good unless performance is rendered actually impossible by an “Act of God,” the law, or another party.” An “Act of God” is defined as “an act or occurrence so extraordinary and unprecedented that human foresight could not anticipate or guard against it, and the effect of which could not be prevented or avoided by the exercise of reasonable prudence, diligence, and care.”

The doctrine of impossibility of performance excuses one party from having to hold up its side of the contract if the “Act of God” could not have been anticipated. Under many circumstances, Hurricane Irma could be considered an Act of God and might excuse one party’s duties under a contract entered into before the storm. This is especially true for long term contracts.

The analysis of whether Hurricane Irma would allow a party relief under a particular contract requires an assessment of the contract, the conditions and timing leading up to the execution of the contract, the nature of the obligations under the contract, and several other situation-specific details. If you are recovering from the storm and have questions about your duties under certain contracts reach out to an experienced attorney at the Boatman Law Firm at 239-330-1494.

THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE READER SHOULD CONSULT WITH KNOWLEDGEABLE LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW APPLICABLE LAWS APPLY TO SPECIFIC FACTS AND SITUATIONS. BLOG POSTS ARE BASED ON THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION AT THE TIME THEY ARE WRITTEN. SINCE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LAWS OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES MAY HAVE CHANGED SINCE PUBLICATION, PLEASE CALL US TO DISCUSS ANY ACTION YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS A RESULT OF READING THIS BLOG.

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