Contracts/Novation

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Contracts Treatise
Table of Contents
Contracts Outline
Introduction and Definitions
Introduction
Definitions
Elements
Contract formation
Parties
Offer
Acceptance
Intention to Bind
Formal requisites
Mailbox rule
Mirror image rule
Invitation to deal
Firm offer
Consideration
Consent
Implication-in-fact
Collateral contract
Modification
Merger
Uniform Commercial Code
Uniform Commercial Code
Course of dealing
Course of performance
UCC-1 financing statement
Uniform Commercial Code adoption
Defenses against formation
Lack of capacity
Duress
Undue influence
Illusory promise
Statute of frauds
Uncertainty
Non est factum
Contract interpretation
Governing law
Construction and Operation
Parol evidence rule
Contract of adhesion
Integration clause
Contra proferentem
Excuses for non-performance
Mistake
Misrepresentation
Frustration of purpose
Impossibility
Impracticability
Illegality
Unclean hands
Unconscionability
Accord and satisfaction
Rights of third parties
Privity of contract
Assignment
Delegation
Novation
Third-party beneficiary
Performance or Breach
Necessity of performance
Sufficiency of performance
Anticipatory repudiation
Cover
Exclusion clause
Efficient breach
Deviation
Fundamental breach
Termination
Termination
Rescission
Termination and rescission
Abrogation and rescission
Subsequent contract
Termination
Forfeiture
Remedies
Specific performance
Liquidated damages
Punitive damages
Quasi-contractual obligations
Estoppel
Quantum meruit
Actions
Actions in General
Parties to Action
Pleading
Evidence
Questions of Law and Fact
Instructions
Trial and Judgment

Novation, in contract law and business law,[1] is the act of –

  1. replacing an obligation to perform with another obligation; or
  2. adding an obligation to perform; or
  3. replacing a party to an agreement with a new party.

Origins in Roman law[edit | edit source]

Novati, as a legal term is derived from the Roman law, in which novatio was of three kinds—substitution of a new debtor (expromissio, or delegatio), of a new creditor (cessio nominum vel actionum), or of a new contract.[2]

In English law the term (though it occurs as early as Bracton) is scarcely naturalized, the substitution of a new debtor or creditor being generally called an assignment, and of a new contract a merger. It is doubtful, however, whether merger applies except where the substituted contract is one of a higher nature, as where a contract under seal supersedes a simple contract. Where one contract is replaced by another, it is of course necessary that the new contract should be a valid contract, founded upon sufficient consideration (see Contract). The extinction of the previous contract is sufficient consideration. The question whether there is a novation most frequently arises in the course of dealing between a customer and a new partnership, and on the assignment of the business of a life assurance company with reference to the assent of the policyholders to the transfer of their policies. The points on which novation turns are whether the new firm or company has assumed the liability of the old, and whether, the creditor has consented to accept the liability of the new debtors and discharge the old. The question is one of fact in each case. See especially the Life Assurance Companies Act 1872, s. 7, where the word "novations" occurs in the marginal note to the section, and so has quasi-statutory sanction.[2]

In American law, as in English, the term is something of a novelty, except in Louisiana, where much of the civil law is retain.[2]

Novation vs. assignment[edit | edit source]

In contrast to an assignment, which is generally valid as long as the other party is given notice (except where the obligation is specific to the obligor, as in a personal service contract with a specific ballet dancer, or where assignment would place a new and special burden on the counterparty), a novation is valid only with the consent of all parties to the original agreement.[3] A contract transferred by the novation process transfers all duties and obligations from the original obligor to the new obligor.

Examples of novation[edit | edit source]

For example, if there exists a contract whereby Dan will give a TV to Alex, and another contract whereby Alex will give a TV to Becky, then, it is possible to novate both contracts and replace them with a single contract wherein Dan agrees to give a TV to Becky. In contrast to assignment, novation requires the consent of all parties. Consideration is still required for the new contract, but it is usually assumed to be the discharge of the former contract.

Another classic example is when Company A enters a contract with Company B and a novation is included to ensure that if Company B sells, merges or transfers the core of their business to another company, the new company assumes the obligations and liabilities that Company B has with Company A under the contract. So in terms of the contract, a purchaser, merging party or transferee of Company B steps into the shoes of Company B with respect to its obligations to Company A. Alternatively, a "novation agreement" may be signed after the original contract[4] in the event of such a change. This is common in contracts with governmental entities; an example being under the United States Anti-Assignment Act, the governmental entity that originally issued the contract must agree to such a transfer or it is automatically invalid by law.

The criteria for novation comprise the obligee's acceptance of the new obligor, the new obligor's acceptance of the liability, and the old obligor's acceptance of the new contract as full performance of the old contract. Novation is not a unilateral contract mechanism, hence allows room for negotiation on the new T&Cs under the new circumstances. Thus, 'acceptance of the new contract as full performance of the old contract' may be read in conjunction to the phenomenon of 'mutual agreement of the T&Cs'.[3]

Application in financial markets[edit | edit source]

Novation is also used in futures and options trading to describe a special situation where the central clearing house interposes itself between buyers and sellers as a legal counter party, i.e., the clearing house becomes buyer to every seller and vice versa. This obviates the need for ascertaining credit-worthiness of each counter party and the only credit risk that the participants face is the risk of the clearing house defaulting. In this context, novation is considered a form of risk management.

The term is also used in markets that lack a centralized clearing system, such as swap trading and certain over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives, where "novation" refers to the process where one party to a contract may assign its role to another, who is described as "stepping into" the contract. This is analogous to selling a future contract.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Derivatives Overview,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Template:EB1911
  3. 3.0 3.1 Duhaime, Lloyd Part 6: Restraint of Trade, Assignment, Novation & Frustration, duhaime.org (25 May 2012)
  4. Duhaime, Lloyd Novation Definition, duhaime.org

Further reading[edit | edit source]