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A breach of contract by a party is not a contract lapse

Court of Appeal of Versailles, France, 12th chamber, 24 September 2020, no. 19/03654

Article 1186 of the French Civil Code provides that a validly formed contract lapses if one of its essential elements disappears. Case law has yet to specify the scope of this new article resulting from the 2016 reform of contract law, in particular by answering the following questions: what are the essential elements of a contract? Can the disappearance of one of these essential elements be the result of the will of the parties?

A recent judgment of the Versailles Court of Appeal provides an answer: the disappearance of the essential element of the contract within the meaning of article 1186 cannot be dependent on the will of the parties. Thus, the non-performance of its contractual obligations by a company cannot lead to a contract lapse, even if it is invoked by the party who is the victim of the non-performance. In the present case, this solution seems relevant to us. Indeed, to acknowledge the contrary would ultimately amount to authorizing the defaulting party to unilaterally terminate the contract.