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.
- 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.
- 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
Insurance policies often contain long exclusion lists for damage caused by act
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.
- In the case of Nichols v. Marshland 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.
- In the case of Blyth v. Birmingham Water Works Cothe
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.
- In the case of Ramalinga Nadar v. Narayana Reddiar 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.
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