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Statutory liability of the contractor or builder at French law

This head is important from a comparative law perspective in that, under the provisions of article 1792 et seq of the French Civil Code, there is an absolute presumption of the liability of the "constructeur for a ten year period.

The ten year period starts to run with effect from the rception (formal official handover) of the ouvrage (construction or building in the broadest terms) by the constructeur (builder in the broadest terms) to the matre douvrage (building owner).

Each of these highlighted French words has an important legal meaning at French law.

It follows that in the event of a claim brought by the building owner relating to the ouvrage, i.e. the construction or the building, the constructor or builder will as a matter of French law be automatically presumed by the Courts to be liable.

This ipso jure liability may only be rebutted by establishing unequivocal evidence of the existence of one of three grounds

  • la force majeure (characterised by French law as 'unforeseeable, irresistible and insurmountable' - it is important to note that the French law concept of force majeure is not necessarily the same as to the sense attributed to this expression in many common-law jurisdictions)
  • le fait d'un tiers (viz. an act by a third party)
  • la faute du matre d'ouvrage (viz. the fault of the owner of the construction).

It is though made clear that, in practical terms, such a claim would generally need to be of a certain substance or gravity, for example putting the solidity of the building at risk, in order for the Courts to be seized of the matter.

For more information, in English, on the statutory liability of the constructor or builder at French law, please click here .