No one is able to predict how the coronavirus situation will play out or precisely how each of us might be impacted or for how long. It is possible your ability to perform various contractual obligations will be delayed. Many contracts protect parties against an inability to perform due to uncontrollable circumstances, at least in some situations, by inclusion of a so-called force majeure provision. This provision excuses certain behavior in certain situations determined to be beyond the control of the party failing to perform. Obviously, the text of the particular provision is critical to understanding what it says.
We are writing to alert you that many force majeure provisions include a mandatory notice provision. If you don’t provide the required notice, you are estopped from raising force majeure as a defense against a claim arising out of your failure to perform. So if the coronavirus pandemic is interfering with your ability to perform contractual obligations, we urge you to review your contracts and deliver any required notices so as to protect yourself to the extent possible, and if your contract mandates that any other steps be taken to preserve the defense, take those steps as well.
Gibbons stands ready to assist with these concerns. If you have any questions regarding force majeure provisions in your contracts, please contact Shepard Federgreen. In addition, we will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and update you accordingly.
More in the “Coronavirus and Your Business” Series: