Aside from receiving a number of calls relating to people who would like to plan their Estate in recent times with all the news news of the Coronavirus, I have also received a number of inquiries about whether or not people can get out of contracts, particularly leases due to unexpected circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic and related shutdowns.
The short answer is that on a few occasions I have in fact been successful with helping people get out of contracts in which they would have otherwise been obligated to perform by using the Covid-19 shut downs as an excuse for non performance. The first thing I do is look at the contract for a provision related to Force Majeur, which deals with natural disasters and other unforeseen circumstances. Many contracts do not have such provisions, so then I look to see if some theories such as the doctrines of Impracticability, Impossibility or Frustration of Purpose may apply. In lay man's terms these doctrines apply in situations where it is literally impossible or very difficult to carry out the terms of the contract or the underlying purpose of the contract is nullified due to the new circumstances, in this case, Covid-19.
The reality is I have found that even if the above doctrines do not literally apply, most of the parties to whom I have written letters requesting that my clients be relieved of their obligations under a contract or a lease are quite cooperative because they know that in situations like this regardless of who is technically right under the law, a situation exists where both parties are in a difficult situation due to the fact that one party is unable to perform. It is in everyone's interested to negotiate. That said, I have usually been able to negotiate some decent settlements where at least some of the performance under the contract is excused.
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