This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
In construing the language by which provision is made for conditions, the courts are unwilling to construe such conditions as self-executing if possible.1 The dislike of the courts for forfeitures 2 has frequently led the courts to construe a word, such as "void" as really equivalent to "voidable at the election of the party for whose benefit such provision is inserted."3 It has been said that a provision to the effect that an insurance policy is to be void if the insured is not the unconditional and sole owner, is not to be taken literally and that "void" means only voidable.4 Accordingly, it is said that the insurance company, upon learning of the defect in title, must, if it wishes to avoid the policy, notify the insured of such determination on its part in a reasonable time and tender the unearned premium which it has received.5 A provision in a contract of sale, to the effect that certain stipulated defaults shall render the contract "void and of no effect" is held to be inserted for the protection of the party who is not in default. Accordingly, such default terminates the rights of the party in default, but not the rights of the adversary party.6 The courts are especially averse to construing a condition as intended for the benefit of the party who has the power to perform such condition or not.7 A provision for employing one as long as a specified contract "remains in force," is held to mean as long as such contract by its terms would be in force in case of performance, and not to refer to the discharge of such contract prematurely by breach.8 A provision in a contract for operating an oil and gas well, to the effect that failure to commence such well and to complete it in accordance with the terms of the contract, should operate as a forfeiture, has been held to be a provision which is inserted for the benefit of the lessor;9 and accordingly a breach of such condition gives to the lessor the right to terminate the lease, but it does not give such right to the lessee.10
16 Schillinger Bros. Co. v. Bosch-Ryan Grain Co. (Ia.), 116 N. W. 132.
1 Bradford v. Limpus, 10 Ia. 35.
2 Van Etten v. Kelly, 66 O. S. 605, 64 N. E. 560.
See to the same effect, where no provision is made for minimum royalties, Chandler v. French, 73 W. Va. 658, L. R. A. 1915B, 561, 81 S. E. 825.
1 Central Oil Co. v. Southern Refining Co., 154 Cal. 165, 97 Pac. 177.
2 See Sec. 2054.
3 Beecher v. Vt. Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 90 Vt. 347, 98 Atl. 917.
4 Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Michael, 167 Ind. 659, 8 L. R. A. (N.S.) 708, 74 N. E. 964.
5 Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Michael, 167 Ind. 659, 8 L. R. A. (N.S.) 708, 74 N. E. 964.