§ 20-12 Negligence - "act of God" Defense

LibrarySouth Carolina Requests to Charge - Civil (SCBar) (2016 Ed.)

§ 20-12 Negligence - "Act of God" Defense

In the law, an "act of God" means an unusual, extraordinary, sudden and unexpected manifestation of the forces of nature in a manner that man cannot resist. It is an act occasioned exclusively by forces of nature without the interference of any human agency. A misadventure or casualty is said to be caused by the "act of God," when it happens by the direct, immediate, and exclusive operation of the forces of nature, uncontrolled and uninfluenced by the power of man, and without human intervention, and is of such a character that it could not have been prevented or escaped from by any amount of foresight or prudence, or by any reasonable degree of care or diligence, or by the aid of any appliances which the situation of the party might reasonably require him to use.

An "act of God" is generally described as an occurrence that is:

(1) abnormal or unusual;
(2) strictly natural in origin with no human assistance or influence; and
(3) inevitable, so that it could not have been reasonably prevented or provided against by the exercise of ordinary human foresight.

In order for an event to be considered an "act of God," it must be "abnormal." An event is abnormal within the meaning of the term "act of God" where it is such an unusual and extraordinary manifestation of the forces of nature that it could not under normal conditions have been anticipated or expected, and where the history of climatic variations and other conditions in the particular locality afford no reasonable warning of it. Conversely, where conditions are predictable and not without precedent, they may not constitute acts of God. However, the occurrence need not be unprecedented to be abnormal, so long as it could not have been anticipated under normal conditions. The question of precedent relates to the matter of reasonable anticipation and opportunity to avert the consequences, and it is in that sense that the term "unprecedented" is used with regard to the nature of the catastrophe.

Since an "act of God," as has been defined in the law, is an unusual, extraordinary, sudden, and unexpected manifestation of the forces of nature which man cannot resist, and which cannot, under normal conditions, be anticipated or expected, an occurrence rising to the dignity of an "act of God" shields a defendant from liability. Generally, if the injury was caused by some extraordinary or unusual natural force or condition that could not have been foreseen, or that would...

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