Frustration of purpose (in contract law) (Ro.: imposibilitate de executare a contractului, Fr.: inexécutabilité finalitaire, n.f./ impossibilité d'exécution, n.f., Gr.: αδυναμία παροχής, Cz.: nemožné plnění) (See also: impossibility of performance, impracticability) = a legal defence available to the frustrated party, which entitles the discharge from contractual obligations and the termination of the contract, without payment of damages, if performance becomes impossible because of an unexpected event. This supervening event affects the purpose of the contract in itself and makes it unreachable. It is also essential that both parties were aware of this purpose when entering the contract.

Frustration can’t be invoked when the circumstances were foreseeable at the conclusion of the contract. Frustration of purpose is also called 'commercial frustration'.


Useful links

Case law - Krell v. Henry, Court of Appeal, UK, 1903 - Taylor v. Caldwell, England and Wales High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) Decisions, [1863] EWHC QB J1 122 ER 309; 3 B. & S. 826 - Condor v. Baron Knoghts, England and Wales High Court, 1966 - Fibrosa Spolka v. Fairbairn, United Kingdom House of Lords Decisions, [1942] UKHL 4, [1943] AC 32 - Wilharm v. Construction Company, Court of Appeals of Ohio, USA, 1997

Online Publications - Weiskopf, N. R, 1996, Frustration of Contractual Purpose--Doctrine or Myth?, St. John's Law Review - The doctrine of frustration in English law, Steptoe - Bundy Smith, G., Hall, T. J., 2011, The frustration of purpose Doctrine is alive and well, New York Law Journal - Stutman, E., 2013, Frustration of purpose: A frustrating Doctrine, Snell & Wilmer


Helewitz, A. J., 2007, Basic contract law for paralegals, Austin, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, Aspen Publishers

McKendrick, E., 2013, Force majeure and frustration of contract, New York, Informa law from Routledge

Denicola, R. C., 2002, The law of contracts, Lincoln, Boston Legal Pub

Frey, M. A., Frey, P. H., 2001, Essentials of contract law, Albany, West Thomson Learning

Brunner, C., 2009, Force majeure and hardship under general contract principles: exemption for non-performance in international arbitration, Austin, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business


By Ioana Bărăian