CORONAVIRUS CONTRACT ISSUES

The havoc wrought by the Coronavirus includes countless contract-related disputes attributable directly to the pandemic and the resulting governmental prohibitions.  Vacationers who paid substantial deposits for out-of-town lodging suddenly found themselves unable to travel.  Long-planned and paid-for conferences, meetings, parties, reunions, and events were rendered illegal by shelter-in-place and group-size restrictions and could not occur.  Concerts and sporting events were canceled and, due to the lengthy duration of the viruses’ hold on our nation, many were not rescheduled.  The shut-down of non-essential businesses – especially those in relation to which working remotely was not an option – rendered impossible the impacted company’s and people’s abilities to perform their contractual duties.  In each of these situations, the extraordinary nature of  the underlying circumstances may give rise to a little-used contractual defenses that could excuse a party’s non-performance and, in some instances, return the parties to their pre-contract financial positions.  The understanding and use of legal doctrines like force majeure, impossibility of performance, frustration of purpose, intervening illegality, impracticability of performance, and unjust enrichment may, in many instances, be the only means of avoiding still more financial woes on account of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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