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Chapter

Cover JC Smith's The Law of Contract

23. Common mistake: contracts void for failure of a basic contractual assumption  

This chapter examines contracts which were avoided because of the failure of a basic contractual assumption before the contract has been concluded. If a contract has been concluded based on a particular contractual assumption, then the failure of that assumption before the contract has been concluded means that the contract is void. This is because both parties have made a fundamental mistake about a basic assumption. A contract cannot be void due to a common mistake where the risk of an assumption failing has been allocated to one of the parties under the contract, or where the failure is attributable to the fault of one of the parties. Very few assumptions are held to be ‘basic’; the threshold is set at a very high level. The failure of the assumption must, at the very least, render performance of the contract fundamentally different from what was reasonably envisaged.

Chapter

Cover JC Smith's The Law of Contract

24. Frustration: contracts discharged for failure of a basic contractual assumption  

This chapter examines contracts which were avoided because of the failure of a basic contractual assumption after the contract has been concluded. If the failure of a basic contractual assumption occurs after the contract has been concluded, the contract may be frustrated. A frustrating event kills off the contract automatically. However, everything that was done from the making of the contract up to its frustration was, and remains, validly done in pursuance of that contract. A contract cannot be frustrated where the risk of an assumption failing has been allocated to one of the parties under the contract (for example by a force majeure clause), or where the failure is attributable to the fault of one of the parties. The Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943 will determine the consequences of frustration. This legislation provides a statutory mechanism for adjusting the rights of parties after a contract has been frustrated.