Contractual obligations

The doctrine of frustration applies under three situations. First, impossibility of performance, this could happen either by an accidental burning of a building or the sudden sickness of a party. Second, where the parties’ common objective and purpose in forming the contract is frustrated and third, supervening illegality frustrates the contract . In our present case, neither of these conditions was satisfied, because the impossibility of performance does not arise, due to the fact that the contract comprises of a number of different events.

The second condition is also inapplicable, due to the fact that only one of the events cannot be conducted. The third condition, is not germane to the issue, because there is no illegality involved in this contract. However, there are certain situations in the English law as specified by the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, wherein, contractual obligations cannot be rescinded. For instance, any sum that is due and which remains unpaid before frustration of the contract has to be paid.

Similarly, any money that was paid before the frustration of the contract has to be refunded . The doctrine of frustration was established in the case of Taylor v Caldwell in the year 1863. In that case a contract was formed for hiring a hall. The hall was completely destroyed by a fire just a day before the hirer planned to use it. The Court established the doctrine of impossibility or frustration as there was a frustrating event that led to the termination of the contract, although both the parties to the contract were in breach of the contract.

Ever since that case, a number of frustration cases have emerged, involving various types of such events. The courts ascertain as to whether the event prevented the parties from further performance or not. They also review whether the event contemplates the contract either expressly or impliedly. In such cases the contract is not frustrated and if any of the parties to the contract fails to perform then that party is deemed to be in breach of the contract. However, if an event is predictable then the contract is not frustrated .

In Herne Bay Steamboat Co v Hutton the defendant had chartered a vessel from the plaintiff, in order to enable paying passengers to witness the coronation naval review by the British Monarch and to view the Royal Naval fleet. The Monarch, due to affliction with pneumonia, cancelled the appointment. However, the fleet remained in place. The appellate court decided that there was no frustration of the contract, as neither the tour nor the review of the fleet constituted the basis of the contract .

In our case, even though the cat show was cancelled due to some unforeseeable reason, the other conditions exist unchanged, with regard to the other events of the contract. The doctrine of impossibility or frustration relieves the parties to a contract from their contractual obligations, in the event of the occurrence of certain events after the formation of the contract. The parties are relieved of the future performance of the contract.

Such events should be relevant to the frustration of the purpose of the contract. In other words, frustration of a contract takes place, whenever, an event occurs as an interruption or if that event changes the existing situation without a contractual breach by either party to the contract. In our present case, the illness of the cats does not frustrate the contract, because the cat show is not the sole event that changes the extant situation.

As long as the other events in the contract can be conducted, the parties to the contract cannot be relieved of their obligation to perform their contractual obligations.


Amalgamated Investment & Property Co Ltd v John Walker & Sons Ltd [1977] 1 WLR 164 Frustration. In Collins Dictionary of Law. 2000. December 13, 2007, http://www. credoreference. com/entry/5980121 Herne Bay Steam Boat Co v Hutton [1903] 2 KB 683 (CA) Krell v Henry (1903) 2 KB 740 CA