Vis Major

General rule of Law Of Tort says when the plaintiff brings an action against the defendant for a tort, given all the essentials of the same is fulfilled, the defendant is held liable. But the defendant can plea his innocence by taking some defence under the law of tort. There are 8 such defences and one of them is Vis Major or Act of God.

An act of God is a defence used in cases of torts when an event over which the defendant has no control occurs and as a result causes harm/damage to the plaintiff.

Definition of Vis Major under Black’s Law Dictionary – ” An act occasioned exclusively by the violence of nature without the interference of any human agency”.

Case Law- Nicholas v/s Marshland.

Facts- The defendant constructed an artificial lake on his land taking into consideration of the rainfall measurement in past. But one day rainfall crossed the record, registered in any human history. As a result, the embankment of his lake broke and the water destroyed the plaintiffs four Bridges. The court held the defendant not liable as the act was because of Vis Major.

In case of Ryde v/s Bushnell the court has observed that ,’ nothing can be said to be an act of God unless it is an occurrence due to exclusively to natural causes of so extraordinary in nature that it could not reasonably have been foreseen and the result avoided’.

The rule of strict liability I.e. the rule of Rylands v/s Fletcher (1868)  also takes under consideration this defence as a valid defence by Blackburn J.  It is defined as ” Circumstances which no human foresight can provide against and of which human prudence is nnot bound to recognise the possibility”.

Brief about strict liability- According to this rule if a person brings on his land and keeps there any dangerous thing and that thing escapes and cause harm to any person then the former person is prima facie liable for all the damages/harm caused to the latter.  

 An “Act Of God” as an exception to the rule of strict liability is held not available in cases of death due to electrocution as a result of falling off high tension electric wire from its pole due to lightning strike or storm.

                                        Case law – S.K. Shangrung Lamkarg v. State of Manipur.

Facts- Two persons died due to electrocution caused by falling off a high tension electric wire from its pole while they were proceeding to ride a scooter. The respondents contended that the fall of the electric wire was due to the lightning storm resulting in the breaking of a tension disc insulator and not due to negligence of any of the respondents.

Judgement – The Gauhati High Court said that since the management of supply of electricity was a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity when harm was caused to anyone on account of any cause in the operation of the activity, the respondents, who were responsible in respect to the said activity would be strictly liable and the defence of vis major won’t be applicable in such cases.

Aishwarya Says:

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