A legal contract is any agreement which is considered to be enforceable under contract laws. While most legal contracts are written and signed, some jurisdictions recognize oral agreements as legal contracts; it is generally best for a contract to be formalized in writing, especially for considerably valuable subject matters or for complex arrangements.
Legal contracts can be used by both individuals as well as organizations, such as businesses and corporations. Any legal contract must be entered into in such a way that is fair for both parties, and free of any fraud, coercion, and/or misrepresentations.
In order for a contract to be valid, it must fulfill the requirements of a valid contract. These requirements are set forth by state and federal laws, and include:
- Offer and Acceptance: One party must make an offer, and the other party must accept the offer. Both offer and acceptance must be done in such a way that is clear and unambiguous;
- Assent: Both parties must mutually assent, or agree, to the terms of the contract. They should be clear regarding the terms, words, and definitions that are used in the agreement; and
- Consideration: Each party must exchange something of value. An example of this would be how one party is generally providing a service or goods in exchange for monetary payment.
As was previously mentioned, some contracts must be in writing in order to be legal. This includes contracts for the sale of real property, and contracts for the sale of goods worth over a certain amount. In general, if it is over $500, it needs to be in writing.
There are many reasons why a contract can be invalidated, the most common of which being if one of the requirements listed above was not met. An example of this would be how if only one party assented to the agreement, the contract is not legally binding.
Depending on the circumstances, a court can often declare a contract void; meaning, the contract is canceled as if it never existed, in which case the parties will likely be released from their duties. In other cases, the court may declare the contract “voidable,” meaning that the parties can cancel the contract at their own election.
A breach of a legal contract is considered to be a legal violation. As such, if one party fails to fulfill their contractual duties, a lawsuit will generally result between the two parties. The non-breaching party will sue the other party for any damages that were caused by the breach of contract.
Alternatively, the court can issue an injunction requiring the breaching party to fulfill their contract obligations. The choice of remedies in a contract case can vary considerably, depending on the type of breach and the type of legal contract that was breached.
What Is A Weather Clause In A Contract?
In a contract, a weather clause can grant an extension for any delays in performance that were caused by unfavorable weather conditions. Alternatively, the weather clause might deny extensions of time for delays caused by the weather. It is generally up to the contracting parties to determine and agree upon the rights or limitations that are stated in a weather clause.
The weather conditions referred to in a weather clause may include:
- Unusual weather patterns;
- Heavy rain;
- Lightning or thunder conditions; and
They may also address “acts of God” or natural disasters. In a legal context, an “Act of God” generally refers to an event that involves a natural disaster. Much like a natural disaster, an Act of God is essentially any natural incident that:
- Is considered to be beyond a person’s control;
- Is difficult to predict; and
- Would be hard to quantify in terms of subsequently occurring damages.
Some examples of natural disaster accidents that would most likely constitute an Act of God include the following:
- Tsunamis; and
- Volcanic eruptions.
You may have encountered an Act of God provision in a contract, or more likely in a home insurance policy. In some instances, these provisions may appear as a “Force Majeure” clause. Regardless of which term is used, they both carry the same meaning.
In terms of contracts, insurance policies, and other legal instruments, incorporating these provisions can eliminate liability in the event that an unpreventable or natural disaster occurs and prevents the parties from being able to perform their legal obligations. Generally speaking, an Act of God provision will excuse both parties from their duties.
However, the exception to this would be if the parties negotiated for special conditions in terms of when the provision only applies to one of the parties, and not the other that is signing the legal document. This is why it is imperative to ensure that an Act of God clause is written in clear and concise language. If not, one party may be at risk of being held legally responsible for damages that were beyond their control.
In What Types Of Contracts Are Weather Clauses Used?
In general, weather clauses may be employed when the subject matter of the contract can be affected by weather conditions. This can include any aspect of performance, but especially delivery of goods as adverse weather conditions can delay shipping.
Another common type of contract associated with weather clauses would be construction contracts. Many construction contracts contain weather clauses which either grant or deny an extension if a delay is caused by weather conditions. A construction company may request an extension through a weather clause, especially if their safety will be compromised by continuing to work through unfavorable weather conditions.
Other types of contracts that commonly involve weather clauses include:
- Contracts for the delivery of goods (or, shipping contracts);
- Farming contracts;
- Contracts associated with outdoor sports or athletic events;
- Performance contracts for entertainers, musicians, and actors, especially for outdoor venues; and
- Any contract in which weather may be a deciding factor in the fulfillment of contractual duties or obligations.
To reiterate, a weather clause should be specific and detailed in order to avoid any confusion or mistakes during contract performance. The clause should include the following information:
- Whether a delay is excusable or not if caused by weather conditions;
- The names of the parties affected by the clause;
- Dates when the clause should apply; and
- Consequences if the weather clause is not adhered to.
Both parties need to be absolutely clear regarding the scope and limits of any weather clause that is contained in a contract. Additionally, both parties must consent to the clause, especially if the clause is added to the contract at a later time.
What Happens If A Weather Clause Is Not Followed?
A weather clause that is included in a valid contract is generally enforceable under most state laws. What this means is that the parties must abide by the conditions that are stated in the weather clause, and failure to do so can result in the breaching party having to pay damages for losses resulting from any delays.
An example of this would be if a construction contract contained a weather clause stating that the construction company may not be granted an extension for delays caused by weather. If the construction company then delays their performance, they cannot claim weather conditions as a justification for the delay. As such, they may be required to pay for any losses that their delay caused, especially if the construction was indoors and was not likely to be affected by weather conditions.
Other consequences for failing to observe a weather clause may include obtaining a court injunction ordering the breaching party to fulfill their duties, such as delivering goods or rendering payments. If the delay was intentional or accompanied by criminal intent, the breaching party may be required to pay punitive damages as well.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With A Weather Clause In A Contract?
If you have any questions regarding weather clauses in a contract, you should consult with a contract lawyer.
An experienced contract attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific contract laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should legal action become necessary.