Vis major

Vis major

"Vis Major" ( IPA|/vɪs 'meɪdʒɚ/), in Latin means ‘a superior force’ It means a greater or superior force; an irresistible force; It may be a loss that results immediately from a natural cause that could not have been prevented by the exercise of prudence, diligence and care. It is also termed as "vis divina" or superior force.

It is an irresistible violence; inevitable accident or act of God. Its nature and power absolutely uncontrollable, for example, the inroads of a hostile army or forcible robberies, may relieve from liability from contract.

This term has specific meaning in regard to strict liability. Strict liability in the law of torts allows for the accrual of liability against an actor where there is no fault or proximate cause given the damages arose from their participation in an ultrahazardous activity, i.e. blasting, damming of water, etc. However, "vis major" offers an exception to such liability. In "Rylands v. Fletcher" In the Exchequer Chamber, L.R. 1 Ex. 265, 1866, the exception of vis major is introduced:

[Defendant] can excuse himself by showing that the escape [of a dangerous substance] was owing to the plaintiff's default; or perhaps that the escape was the consequence of "vis major", or the act of God... [emphasis added]

The existence of vis major, or an act of God, will preclude the use of the theory of strict liability given the impossibility of anticipating such an event. (Think of a dam breaking after a hurricane where there is no negligence found on the part of the owner/operator of the dam.)


#Black’s Law Dictionary, P.1567, 7th Edn.,
#Mitra’s Legal & Commercial Dictionary – 4th Edn., Eastern Law House, Page 790
#Prosser Wade and Schwartz's Torts: Cases and Materials, 11th Edn., Foundation Press, P. 694

ee also

*Force Majeure

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • vis major — / vis mā jər/ n [Latin, literally, greater force]: an overwhelming force; also: act of god Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • Vis major — Vis ma jor [L. major greater.] (Law) A superior force which under certain circumstances is held to exempt from contract obligations; inevitable accident; a civil law term used as nearly equivalent to, but broader than, the common law term {act of …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • vis major — /vis may jeuhr/, pl. vires majores /vuy reez meuh jawr eez, jor /, Law. See force majeure. [1595 1605; < L vis major greater force] * * * …   Universalium

  • vis major — [vis mā′jər] n. [L, greater force] ACT OF GOD …   English World dictionary

  • Vis mājor — (lat.), »höhere Gewalt« (s. d.) …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vis major — (lat.), s. Höhere Gewalt …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vis Major — A Latin term meaning act of God , or an occurrence that is neither caused by nor preventable by humans. In commercial contracts, vis major can also apply to actions undertaken by third parties that neither party to the contract can control, such… …   Investment dictionary

  • vis major — noun a natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events he discovered that his house was not insured against acts of God • Syn: ↑act of God, ↑force majeure, ↑inevitable accident, ↑unavoidable casualty • Hypernyms …   Useful english dictionary

  • vis major — A higher force; an irresistible force. An event which cannot be definitely foreseen or controlled. Krause v Board of School Trustees, 162 Ind 278, 284, 70 NE 264. The Latin expression vis major, or force majeure, is not exactly the equivalent of… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Vis major — Vis ma|jor 〈[vıs ] f.; ; unz.〉 höhere Gewalt [<lat. vis „Macht, Gewalt“ + major, Komp. von magnus „groß, hoch“] * * * Vis ma|jor, die; [lat.] (Rechtsspr.): höhere Gewalt ↑ (Gewalt 3). * * * Vis ma|jor …   Universal-Lexikon