There are some events in our life which are unforeseeable and are impossible to predict. In the case of contracts also some situations are beyond the control of a person. These kinds of situations performed by nature and therefore are unpredictable and cannot be controlled. These kinds of circumstances frustrate the purpose of the agreement or render it very difficult or impossible or as even illegal, to perform. E.g. a hall has been booked for a performance of a play. But before the date of the performance, the hall caught fire and was destroyed to an extent that the performance of the play was not possible. Now, in such circumstances the contract cannot be performed, and also none of the parties are at fault. Under such situations, an important question arises as to what part of one party will be excused to perform his contractual undertakings, and what remedy should be provided to the affected party?
Scope of the doctrine
The doctrine of frustration applies to various situations. Some of them are:
The doctrine of frustration will apply in circumstances where the performance of a contract is contrary to some legal issues. In such scenarios the contract is not impossible to perform, nor have the obligations under the contract (necessarily) been radically altered. It is more a question of public policy in ensuring that the law is not broken.
Impossibility: Sale of Goods
Where a contract involves the sale of goods, the particular rules relating to this subject in addition to the common law principles will also be involved.
Impossibility: Death or Illness
In most of the commercial contracts, a particular person is not required to perform the contract, therefore, death or illness does not normally prevent the performance of the contract.
The death or incapacity of the party will make performance impossible where a contract is for some personal service, to be rendered by a party to the contract.
Impossibility: Due to Unavailability
In some circumstances, the subject matter of a contract, may simply not be available for the purpose that was contracted for. In many cases, the unavailability of the subject matter will only be temporary. If the contract specifies performance within a particular time, or on a certain date, then the unavailability of the subject matter at the crucial time will frustrate the contract. But it may obvious whether there is a time limit on the performance of the contract.
Development of the Doctrine of Frustration
There are two important aspects of the doctrine of frustration. Firstly, it is a means of dealing with situations where events occur, after the contract had been concluded, which render the agreement illegal, or impossible to perform. Secondly, the frustrating event must also not be the fault of either party or foreseeable.
In the event of foreseeable future events, the doctrine of frustration will not apply. But in the absence of express provision by the parties, the doctrine of frustration is the legal recognition of the fact that in some instances it is just to excuse a party from his contractual obligations.