Doctrine of Frustration

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  • Created by: TashaChlo
  • Created on: 08-01-15 20:29

Doctrine of Frustration (a.k.a subsequent impossibility)

a contract will be frustrated where a fundamental event occurs which was:

  • totally unforeseeable and beyond the control of either party

  • which makes the performance of the contract impossible, illegal or radically different from that intended

may be used as an alternative to breach


obligations are absolute

Paradine v Jane 1647

a tenant was evicted from his land due to an invading army. The landlord sued for rent arrears and the court held the rent had to be paid even though the tenant was no loner in occupation of the land and it was impossible for him to return

this seemed harsh so the courts developed the doctrine of frustration as an alternative to breach

Taylor v Caldwell 1863

an owner contracted to rent out his music hall, but due to no ones fault burned down before it could be hired out. The person who had planned to hire it had spent money advertising the musicals he had planned and wanted reimbursement for this. The court decided it was now impossible to complete the contract, it was frustrated. This terminated the parties' future obligations to each other under the contract so the owner did not have to pay the hirer for expenses

types of frustrating events:

impossible to perform obligations

  • destruction of object – Taylor v Caldwell

  • personal incapacity (illness) Robinson v Davidson pianist became ill prior to concert he was contracted to play in & Condor v Baron Knights claimant suffered a mental breakdown which meant he could not perform as many nights as needed


  • change in the lawMorgan v Manser performer was called to serve in the army so could no longer perform

Radically different

non occurrence of some fundamental event i.e. contract has no commercial purpose/pointless 'coronation cases'

Krell v Henry 1903

a guest hired a hotel room in order to view Edward VII's coronation procession, the king became ill and the coronation was postponed. The room had to be paid for on the day of the coronation, and the guest refused to do so. The court decided the contract was based on the viewing of the coronation procession and as this would not occur the…


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