Act of God: Definition and Meaning

The general defense of an act of God is applied in tort cases when an incident occurs that the respondent has no resistor over and the impairment is caused by natural causes. In those circumstances, the defendant will not be held liable in tort law for such unintentional harm. Acts of God are characterized as situations for which no human prudence can prepare, of which human caution is not required to be aware, and which, when they do occur, end in tragedies without the need to pay for the repercussions that follow them.

Meaning of Act of God

An abrupt, unexpected, and irresistible incident that cannot be avoided is referred to as an act of God. Even if it had been predictable, there was no way it could have been stopped. This law is based on the concept of "fault," which holds that someone cannot be castigated if all precautions were taken but causality nevertheless occurred. The three conditions for an Act of God are natural forces, no human interference, and no reasonable basis for anticipation.

Elements of Act of God

Here are followings elements of act of God

Natural Causes

An unusual, exceptional, and unanticipated manifestation of the natural forces, as well as a catastrophe or accident resulting from a necessary but unavoidable necessity, are considered acts of God. A divine act cannot be stopped by prudent human caution or forethought. Human care can be used to anticipate and prevent the effects of common causes. For instance, a normal guy would be able to predict that a faulty roof will allow rain to soak through. Failure to take the appropriate precautions in cases of preventable causes constitutes carelessness, and the party hurt in the accident may be entitled to compensation. Therefore, a divine act is so unusual and devoid of human action that it cannot be prevented by prudent care. As a result, the victim in these situations is not entitled to compensation.

An Existence Not Reasonably For seeable

The occurrence of an unexpected event is the fundamental and essential component of an "act of God." For this, the party who sustained the injury has the right to compensation if the harm or loss was brought on by a predictable accident that might have been avoided. However, because a natural disaster could not have been foreseen or averted by human caution or foresight, the harm it causes is not compensable.

In addition, courts hold that the "act of God" defense is only valid if the incident was truly extraordinary and could not have been predicted or expected given the lengthy history of climate fluctuations in the area. It is created solely from human recollection, or written history.

Incapable of Being Prevented by Any Reasonable Measures and Lacking Human Intent to Cause the Alleged Damage

It means that it would be difficult to refuse. Failure to take the essential safeguards is considered negligence. Even though the harm in an incident involving a human factor could not have been avoided, the fact that the human factor took practical care and steps to avoid the harm must be established in order for the "act of God" defense to be successful. If carelessness is claimed and established, the "act of God" defense will be invalidated. The "act of God" defense cannot shield a negligent owner from culpability if a tree that fell on a bystander was improperly maintained.

Case Laws

Nichols v. Marshland

The defendant in this case has several man-made lakes on his property. The banks of the lakes ruptured due to extraordinary rain that had never been seen in living memory, and the evasion water took away four of the plaintiff's bridges. It was decided that the defendant was not responsible because the plaintiff's bridges were swept by a divine act.

Ramalinga Nadar v. Narayana Reddiar

In this instance, the plaintiff had contracted with the defendant to convey certain commodities. The looting of the items by a mob was out of the defendant's authority to stop, so it cannot be held responsible. The court ruled that an event outside of the defendant's control cannot be classified as an act of God. The court ruled that an unruly mob's damaging actions cannot be viewed as an Act of God.

Blyth v. Birmingham Water Works Co.

The defendants in this case had built water lines that were reasonably sturdy enough to survive significant frost. That year, an unusually strong frost caused the pipes to burst, severely damaging the plaintiff's property. Although frost is a natural occurrence, it was decided that its unexpectedly extreme incidence may be attributed to an act of God, absolving the defendants of any responsibility.

Difference Between an Act of God and Vis Major

  • An act of God normally only refers to spontaneous happenings, as contrast to force majeure, which also refers to events that are both naturally occurring and triggered by human activity.

  • Both concepts, however, have the same legal ramifications.

    • For example, a force majeure clause may be contained in a shipping contract and apply to disasters like a tsunami.

  • The term "force majeure" is frequently used to describe situations like war, riots, natural disasters or other acts of God, strikes, the introduction of new laws that impose an embargo, boycotts, the emergence of diseases, etc.

  • The parties must concur in order for a force majeure clause to be triggered; it is not enough to merely state that something unexpected happened.


Although the act of God defense—which shields a defendant from responsibility for harm to people or property brought on by a natural disaster—is rarely invoked, it might do so in the future if forecasts of catastrophic weather occurrences brought on by global warming come to pass. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rains will all happen more frequently as a result of global warming, according to one projection. All of these have the potential to result in serious property destruction, severe personal harm, and subsequently, emotional anguish.


Q1. What is duty of care under tort law?

Ans. It indicates that while executing an act, each individual owes a duty of care to another person. The duty is legal in nature and cannot be illegal or unlawful, moral, ethical, or religious in origin, even if it exists in all activities, save for negligence.

Q2. What is act of God in strict liability?

Ans. An act of God is an unexpected, direct, and unavoidable event of nature that no one can predict or adequately prepare for. No matter how many safety measures are taken, damage can still occur. Among these are earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and extremely heavy rain.

Q3. What do you mean by false Imprisonment?

Ans. False imprisonment refers to holding someone against their will and without any justification. It may take the severe form of kidnapping or the less severe form of holding a customer for alleged shoplifting without justifiable cause. The detainee's permission is a defense to false incarceration, as is the shopkeeper's privilege, which applies when a business owner has good reason to suspect that the detainee has committed theft.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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