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Current Judicial Approach Towards Defense Of Act Of God

Act of god refers to serious and unforeseen natural phenomena for which no one is responsible. Despite its superficial religious connection, the utility of the term "act of god" is frequently used in otherwise secular law and jurisprudence. It is a common defense in tort cases when events occur and the damage is caused by forces of nature.

In these cases, defendants shall not be liable in tort for such incidental damages. A force majeure is a circumstance unpredictable by human foreknowledge, against which human prudence is not obliged to recognize the possibility, and which, if they occur, i.e., a catastrophe, will result. It is defined as having no obligation to pay for the results.

The defense of act of god is based on the tort law that liability must be based on negligence, that if negligence is gross, all precautions have been taken, and if the accident still occurs, the person is not punishable. Vis major is defined as "damage arising directly from natural causes without human intervention, which could not be prevented by prudence, diligence and care". Use proper caution to avoid it. Such accidents are the result of forces of nature and are contrary to human action.

It is therefore "an act which can be traced, without human intervention, directly and exclusively to natural causes, and force majeure, according to Lord Mansfield, is defined as "anything contrary to human action."

Elements of Act of God

Natural Causes: Force Majeure is an unusual, extraordinary and unexpected manifestation of a disaster or accident resulting from forces of nature or unavoidable necessity. Force majeure cannot be prevented by reasonable human foresight and caution.

The consequences of common causes can be foreseen and avoided by human attention. For example, a normal person can predict that rain will fall from a broken roof. If the cause is foreseeable, failure to take the necessary precautions constitutes negligence and the victim is entitled to compensation. Force majeure is therefore so exceptional and without human intervention that the consequences cannot be avoided even with reasonable care. Therefore, in such cases the victim is not entitled to compensation.
  1. Unpredictable Events
    The basic and most important element of "act of god" is the occurrence of unpredictable events. If the damage or loss was caused by a foreseeable accident that could have been prevented, the injured party is entitled to compensation. However, damages caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable natural phenomena could not have been prevented or avoided by foresight or human prudence and therefore cannot be reimbursed.

    Further, the courts have held that the "force majeure" defense is valid only if the event was so extraordinary that it could not have been foreseen or predicted given the long history of local climate change. . It is constructed only by human memory i.e. through recorded history. A court may require an expert report to prove that an event was unforeseen.
     
  2. Impossible to prevent harm allegedly caused by lack of reasonable precautions and human action
    It means virtually impossible to resist. Negligence occurs when the necessary precautions are not taken. In cases where the human factor was present even though the damage could not have been prevented, if the defense must claim "force majeure," the human factor must exercise reasonable care and precautions to prevent the damage.

    You have to prove the fact that you did. If negligence is asserted and proven, the "force majeure" defense fails. If the owner carelessly trims a tree that has fallen on a passer-by, liability for force majeure cannot be exempted.
     

Special Considerations
Insurance policies often contain long exclusion lists for damage caused by act of god.

Policyholders should carefully review their policies to determine what types of damages caused by act of god are covered. You can then make an informed decision as to whether to purchase additional insurance to protect yourself and your property from certain risks.

Case Laws
  1. In the case of Nichols v. Marshland [1]the defendant has a number of artificial lakes on his land. Extraordinary rain such as had never been witnessed in living memory caused the banks of the lakes to burst and the escaping water carried away four bridges belonging to the plaintiff. It was held that the plaintiff's bridges were swept by an act of God and the defendant was not liable.
     
  2. In the case of Blyth v. Birmingham Water Works Co[2]the defendants had constructed water pipes which were reasonably strong enough to withstand severe frost. There was an unprecedented severe frost that year causing the pipes to burst to result in severe damage to the plaintiff's property. It was held that though frost is a natural phenomenon, the occurrence of an unforeseen severe frost can be attributed to an act of God, thus the relieving the defendants of any liability.
     
  3. In the case of Ramalinga Nadar v. Narayana Reddiar[3] the plaintiff had booked goods with the defendant for transportation. The goods were looted by a mob, the prevention of which was beyond the control of the defendant. It was held that event beyond the control of the defendant cannot be said Act of God. It was held that the destructive acts of an unruly mob cannot be considered an Act of God.
     
Conclusion:
The force majeure defense which exempts the defendant from liability for personal injury or property damage caused by natural causes is seldom used, but can be used in the future when predicting catastrophic weather events. can become more common and common in the future.

The effects of global warming are becoming a reality. One prediction related to global warming is that catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rains will become more frequent. All of these can cause extensive personal injury and property damage and consequent psychological trauma.

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