‘Force Majeure Clause’ or ‘God Forbid’?

‘Force Majeure Clause’ or ‘God Forbid’?

A guide on the importance of getting legal issues right instead of leaving them to chance.


A fortnight ago I heard news that a grand aunt was in a coma. I thought and voiced a possibility that she might die, and I heard my cousin hiss and say ‘God Forbid’. I was forced to think; what in our dear country do we not ‘God Forbid’? At 95 what else did she have to do here that God would forbid calling her home?

Rather than ensuring that we get solutions to problems or looming issues we have a ‘God Forbid’ syndrome in our family and business relationships.

Ms X bought a house within a property development recently. In the course of negotiations she asked for a contract, as she needed to be sure about the specifics of what she is buying, particularly since it is within a layout. She was self financing the purchase, with proceeds from her work as well as from the sale of the property she lived in at the time of contract.

She had a buyer who had agreed for her to give him vacant possession after three months. Even though fully paid the negotiations for the contract were still going back and forth. Ms X insisted on a clause about force majeure. The company’s lawyer said ‘God Forbid’ they would not have any situation that could cause delay. During these negotiations and debates, the property revealed structural problems. Ms X could not move in on the Saturday and was rendered homeless. The company has been forced to house her for the last fifteen months, at their cost, with generator, and all the works.

Force Majeure is an unforeseeable circumstance that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract. It is a relationship drama that is hard to watch and just as difficult to ignore. Force Majeure can be applied to any business relationship and relates to the law of insurance in construction contracts. Had the company sought counsel on the need for a force majeure clause, rather than ‘God Forbid’ clause they would not have had to bear such great financial liability.

What are your contracts saying? Are you protected in the event of a force majeure? Or are you relaying on a God forbid clause?