Wording in Contracts Matter: Acts of God

Everyone who lived in Florida during 2004 remembers the impact of the four hurricanes that struck that summer and early fall season. Undoubtedly, these acts of God affected every citrus grower, dealer, broker, and processor in the Florida agriculture industry.

As in any profession, all those directly involved have certain types of contracts that govern the business transactions among them. Because of the potential impacts of hurricanes, freezes, and other acts of God beyond the industry’s control, many of these contracts contain what are known legally as force majeure provisions. Force majeure provisions excuse certain types of performance under contracts when an act of God makes performance by one or both parties impossible or unreasonably impracticable.

This law firm recently defended a citrus dealer from the claim of a citrus processor stating the dealer breached their contract after the hurricanes by the failure to supply the processor with a certain quantity of citrus fruit at a price established by the contract.

At trial, the jury ultimately ruled in favor of the dealer because of the non-specific language in the force majeure provision of the contract — a contract that the processor had drafted.

Although it is time consuming to read a contract, it is important to do so. If you have serious questions about the meaning of any provisions in a contract, you should consult with your attorney. If there is a breach of the contract with a resulting lawsuit, a difference of a few words in the contract can mean the difference between winning and insolvency.



BIO: A Winter Haven native, Douglas A. “Doug” Lockwood, III, received his B.S. degree in 1975 from Duke University and his law degree in 1979 from Stetson University. Doug currently practices in Peterson & Myers, P.A.’s Winter Haven office.

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