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First things first, sorry for the uninspiring title. Please edit it if you have a better one for the question!


This question arose from a comment on a related question which I posted. The question was deemed worth of its own post. I rephrase it a bit here to apply more generally.

Suppose I have a barn which needs refurbishing for the big Stack Exchange Gala[*] I'm holding at the end of the year. I contract a builder to do the repair work; we agree £10k for the work, to be paid on completion. There is a clause in the contract which states something along the lines of, "the builder cannot be held liable if the work cannot be done due to sickness or circumstances outside of her control". (An example of this might be some type of force majeure clause.)

Pandemic hits. She can't do the work. Pandemic clears in time for party (wishful thinking) but I can't host because she didn't do the work. I lose out on earnings I would have got from hosting.

I can't sue her for those lost earnings due to the lack of liability clause. (I'm pretty sure this is the case.) However, does the liability clause mean that can she still charge me £10k for the building work which wasn't done?

[*] Not a real gala, but if it ever happens you heard it here first!

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What does the contract say?

Force majeure is not inherent in common law; it’s a civil law concept. However, it is not uncommon to refer to clauses in contracts that deal with eventualities beyond the control of either party as a force majeure clause.

As such, what the clause says is what the clause does.

For your example, the builder is not liable for breach of contract for not finishing by the contracted date. However, it says they get paid when they finish the work. Once they can finish the work and have finished the work, they get paid.

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  • Ok. I tried to keep the question general to be help to others but it seems that I have made them too generic :/ The particular example I had in mind is agreeing to pay for a service. It has no explicit comment on "payment once services rendered"/similar (adding that in the original post was not helpful from me; sorry). It merely says, "[we, the provider] cannot be held liable for failure to provide any of these services due to factors beyond [our] control such as mechanical failures, staff shortage/illness". I don't know whether liablility means "can't be sued" or "client still pays"
    – Sam OT
    Jan 18 at 12:31
  • I guess you feel it's ambiguous what this clause means? :-)
    – Sam OT
    Jan 22 at 9:40
  • This is still relevant for me, a month on. I wonder if you do have any thoughts on my question above? :)
    – Sam OT
    Feb 19 at 14:09

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