Impossibility Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Impossibility, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Impossibility?

A reason for the breach of contract or termination of the contract presented to the court of law, that its impossible to abide by the contract due to some unforeseen event or natural disaster or physical disability.

History and Meaning of Impossibility

Impossibility is a legal term used to describe a situation where a party to a contract cannot fulfill their obligation due to unforeseen events. It is usually applied as a defense in breach of contract cases, and it can be a valid reason for the termination of a contract. The concept of impossibility has been used in common law jurisdictions since the 19th century, and it is based on the idea that parties cannot be held liable for events outside of their control.

There are two types of impossibility recognized by the law: objective and subjective impossibility. Objective impossibility refers to a situation where it is impossible for anyone to perform the contract, such as when the subject matter of the contract is destroyed or becomes illegal. Subjective impossibility, on the other hand, refers to a situation where it is impossible for a particular party to perform the contract, such as when a person becomes incapacitated.

Examples of Impossibility

  1. A construction company enters into a contract to build a house for a client. After the contract is signed, a hurricane destroys the construction site, making it impossible for the company to fulfill its obligation.

  2. A famous singer is contracted to perform at a concert. However, the singer becomes seriously ill and is unable to perform. The singer can use the defense of impossibility to avoid liability for breach of contract.

  3. A tenant rents a house from a landlord for a period of one year. After six months, the tenant is drafted into the military and is required to relocate. The tenant can use the defense of impossibility to terminate the contract without being held liable for breach.

Legal Terms Similar to Impossibility

  1. Frustration of purpose: a legal doctrine that allows a party to be excused from performing a contract if the reason for entering into the contract no longer exists.

  2. Force majeure: a clause in a contract that excuses a party's non-performance if it is caused by an event outside of their control, such as a natural disaster or war.

  3. Impracticability: a defense similar to impossibility that applies when a party is faced with extreme and unforeseeable difficulty or expense in performing their contractual obligations.