DEFINITION of 'Severability'

A severability clause in a contract states that its terms are independent of one another, so that the rest of the contract will remain in force should a court declare one or more of its provisions void or unenforceable.

BREAKING DOWN 'Severability'

Without a severability clause, a contract could be deemed unenforceable because of a default on just one part of the contract. Sometimes though, severability clauses state that some of the contract’s provisions are so essential to its purpose that if they are illegal or unenforceable, the contract as a whole will be voided.

Severability clauses generally contain two parts. Savings language preserves the remaining agreement in the event a court finds a part to be unenforceable — which is why severability clauses are also known as savings clauses — and reformation language describes how the parties intend unenforceable parts to be modified to be enforceable, or simply deleted.

If a sentence, clause or term in a contract is deemed invalid by a court, the problem area of the contract will usually be rewritten to fit both the contract's original intent and the requirements of the court, under the rule of reasonableness. But if the severability clause addresses the essential purpose of the agreement, then the entire agreement could be made unenforceable.

Severability clauses are also found in legislation, where they state that if some provisions of the law, or certain applications of those provisions, are found to be unconstitutional, the remaining provisions, or the remaining applications of those provisions, will, nonetheless, continue to remain in force.

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