Act of God? or Act of Man?: A Reappraisal of the Act of God Defense in Tort Law

Denis Binder

Chapman University - School of Law

Review of Litigation, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1996

Hurricane Kartrina and similar natural disasters raise significant legal issues. Potentially liable parties quickly invoke the common law Act of God doctrine as a limitation on liability.

However, the defense is severely restricted in its application. For example, the common law held it was inapplicable when an Act of God coalesced with an Act of Man, in other words human negligence, to cause injury.

This article analyzes the traditional Act of God defense while positing that most large scale natural disasters entail human errors, such as in design, construction, operations, maintenance, inspection, regulation, or preparation or response to an emergency. The legal result is the same whether the Act of God is viewed as a defense, duty issue, or intervening causation issue.

Two follow up articles, in a trilogy dealing with the legal issues involved with natural risks and societal responses to emergencies, are The Duty to Disclose Gelologic Hazards in Real Estate Transactions, 1 Chapman Law Review 13 (1998) and Emergency Action Plans: A Legal and Practical Blueprint Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail, 63 U. Pitt. Law Review 791 (2002).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 83

Keywords: Act of God, Katrina, Natural Disasters, Emergencies

Accepted Paper Series

Download This Paper

Date posted: November 4, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Binder, Denis, Act of God? or Act of Man?: A Reappraisal of the Act of God Defense in Tort Law. Review of Litigation, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1996. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=821414

Contact Information

Denis Binder (Contact Author)
Chapman University - School of Law ( email )
One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,728
Downloads: 257
Download Rank: 64,874

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.907 seconds