Is COVID-19 A Contractual “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” Card?

By Sue Laws


COVID 19 is having a massive impact on supply chains and business continuity and, post lockdown, questions will be asked about who pays for this. The knee-jerk response of many businesses is that the pandemic is a unique, unforeseeable “Act of God” and that businesses which have furloughed staff or been forced to close during the lockdown or have had difficulties with their own supply chains or customers reducing purchase volumes, have no liabilities to or remedies against others for the consequent losses sustained. The reality is that on a case by case basis, businesses already adversely affected by this pandemic may find that contractual claims are being made against them or that they have a route to mitigate their losses by looking at their own contractual or statutory rights.

Key to the analysis which will be carried out is a bit of “jargon-busting” and debunking some commonly held views: Continue reading “Is COVID-19 A Contractual “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” Card?”

COVID-19: cry “Force Majeure!”…and let slip the contract lawyers

By Thomas Rainey


As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 forces the shuttering of businesses and significant disruption to supply chains, companies are advised to take steps to ensure that they clearly understand the potential effects of any Force Majeure clauses that may be found in their key contracts

Force Majeure – English Law, French Word, Latin Principles

In recent weeks, fueled by the media, the term Force Majeure has become increasingly commonplace in the coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. What was, until recently, a relatively obscure concept only really of interest to contract lawyers has graduated to become a far more widely-referenced piece of legalese.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with legal constructs that are suddenly thrust into the spotlight, being ‘widely-referenced’ and being ‘clearly understood’ are two very different things.

The concept of Force Majeure derives from French Law and whilst it is generally taken to mean acts, events or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the relevant party, the actual term Force Majeure has no direct or recognized meaning under English Law. As such, for it to be relied upon or enforceable as a concept in English Law-governed agreements it must be carefully defined. The Courts have consistently held that use of the term Force Majeure in a contract without a suitable definition (ie. “the usual Force Majeure clauses shall apply”) is unlikely to be found to be effectively construed.

Continue reading “COVID-19: cry “Force Majeure!”…and let slip the contract lawyers”