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15 January, 2016 - 09:33

Every contract contains some element of risk: the buyer may run out of money before he can pay; the seller may run out of goods before he can deliver; the cost of raw materials may skyrocket, throwing off the manufacturer’s fine financial calculations. Should the obligor’s luck run out, he is stuck with the consequences—or, in the legal phrase, his liability is strict: he must either perform or risk paying damages for breach of contract, even if his failure is due to events beyond his control. Of course, an obligor can always limit his liability through the contract itself. Instead of obligating himself to deliver one million units, he can restrict his obligation to “one million units or factory output, whichever is less.” Instead of guaranteeing to finish a job by a certain date, he can agree to use his “best efforts” to do so. Similarly, damages in the event of breach can be limited. A party can even include a clause canceling the contract in the event of an untoward happening. But if these provisions are absent, the obligor is generally held to the terms of his bargain.

Exceptions include the concepts of impossibility, impracticability, and frustration of purpose.