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Firms urged to make sure contracts are water-tight

Date 12 Oct 2007
Author The Editor

Businesses could be left high and dry if they rely on God as a defence during recent disasters like flooding, according to warnings from a North East solicitor.

Companies across the country are now counting the cost of the flash floods that hit many parts of the UK this summer, which in some areas were the worst on record. But businesses and suppliers are being urged to check their contracts as freak weather conditions become more common place.

Although the waters have now receded many businesses face legal conflict after failing to fulfil contracts due to extreme weather - claiming an Act of God. That defence may no longer wash due to regular flooding. Bad floods may not be enough for a company to avoid its duty to complete a contract as our weather patterns change and forecasting techniques improve.

Nicholas Marshall, of Boldon-based Marshall Glover Solicitors, said: "The courts have made it clear that the Act of God defence is only available when there is a natural occurrence that is unusual and could not have been anticipated. If a carrier is going to claim that a natural occurrence such as a flash flood, severe rain storm or blizzard etc. caused the problem, the burden will be on the carrier to establish that it was of such magnitude as to be unusual and could not have been reasonably anticipated.

"As our weather changes and some of the scenes we have seen this year become more common, the goalposts could shift where magnitude is concerned and the courts may change their stance. I would urge contractors to check their contracts to make sure they are watertight in the event of flooding or other meteorological disasters." 


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