In accordance with the Civil Code, the debtor can be released from liability under the contract if he can prove that the violation of obligations was caused by force majeure circumstances. Such circumstances are also called force majeure.
Definition and signs of force majeure circumstances
Force majeure circumstances are mentioned in the third paragraph of Article 401 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. They are defined as "extreme and unavoidable under the given conditions." However, neither the international nor the domestic legal framework contains a complete and obligatory list of them, therefore, in the absence of a specific list of circumstances in the agreement that the parties will consider insurmountable, subsequently disagreements will inevitably appear. Therefore, it would be advisable to prescribe the following circumstances in the agreement: floods, earthquakes, fires, transport accidents, publication of prohibitive regulations, civil unrest, riots, war and hostilities, personnel strikes. Force majeure has common signs of extremeness, inevitability, unforeseenness. Such circumstances should be of an external nature and appear after the conclusion of the contract.
If the obstacle to the fulfillment of obligations under the contract is of a temporary nature, the contractor is released from liability only for the period in which there is this obstacle.
Force majeure: controversial issues
The attribution to the force majeure of the phenomena of public life (riots, military operations, blockades and strikes) is a controversial issue. For a long time, there was an opinion in Soviet civil law that such a reference to social phenomena as an irresistible force was unacceptable. Currently, not all of these circumstances can be recognized as force majeure. For example, if a state of war lasts for a long time, it loses the sign of unpredictability and therefore cannot be attributed to force majeure.
Arson fires are also controversial in courts. It is necessary to prove that such circumstances have all the signs of force majeure, and the persons guilty of causing harm are unknown.
The domestic judicial practice is also cautious in assessing the strike. It is believed that only strikes of entire industrial sectors can be attributed to circumstances of force majeure, since the termination of the work of one organization can be provoked deliberately. Controversial is the issue of attributing crimes (eg, terrorist attacks) to force majeure. Currently, the prevailing point of view denies their attitude to the circumstances of force majeure. However, they can be qualified as force majeure if it is proven that they have all the necessary characteristics.