Say a contract is specified to arbitrated by the law of the state of Virginia (or whatever).

Then, WW3 happens and entire jurisdictions, state and countries cease to exist including Virginia.

Is there any precedent for what happens when entire countries and jurisdictions where contracts were made cease to exist?

  • Are you actually concerned about the historical perspective, or rather from what would happen if a jurisdiction disappears? Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 20:35
  • Both. Like if the various territories created or destroyed in the civil war affected contracts.
    – anon
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 20:36
  • Countries cease to exist, expand, fall under occupation, dissipate into smaller countries, change form of government, turn into failed states, sink in the ocean and whatnot all the time. So precedents should be findable Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 22:36
  • Is there actual legal precedent on this with respect to contracts? For example, were contracts signed in the former East Germany (DDR) adjudicated void after 1990 or were they evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see if they were repugnant to the law of the Federal Republic of Germany? Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


Is there any precedent for what happens when entire countries and jurisdictions where contracts were made cease to exist?

I cannot answer from a historical perspective. From a legal standpoint, though, the contract ought to be enforced in accordance with the parties' intent and knowledge that can be inferred from when the contract was formed. The original laws constitute material part of the context in which the contract was formed, and therefore they might be indicative of parties' underlying intent. Accordingly, the old laws would be adopted.

This is a form of contractual choice of law. As such, it cannot be stricken merely on grounds that unexpectedly the chosen legislation no longer exists.

Even if there were an actual/historical ruling in the opposite direction, it would be odd to the extent that it hinders the contract law tenet that a contracts are entered knowingly and willfully. In other words, it would be a ruling or precedent which contravenes a legal principle that is more important. Said tenet is very common among "modern" legal systems, encompassing both common law and civil law.

The main exception would be if the outcome of the aforementioned approach contravened public policy of the substitute jurisdiction. In that case, the laws of the substitute jurisdiction would supersede the original ones.

You must log in to answer this question.