Force Majure: What Does It Mean, and Why Does It Matter?

During the Coronavirus crisis and at other times of difficulty, you might hear the term “force majure” used a lot. But what does that really mean, and how could it help you? Here’s what you need to know about this unusual term.

Force Majure Covers “Acts of God”

Many contracts have a force majure clause in them, which essentially allows for limited liability in breaking a contract due to an extraordinary and unforeseen event. In other words, if something completely unexpected and overwhelming happens, a person may be able to use that troubling issue to get out of a contract. If they can’t get free of the contract due to the “Act of God,” they may be able to reduce their level of liability so they aren’t as damaged by fulfilling the contract.

This is a serious and important issue now more than ever, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But does the Coronavirus constitute an Act of God big enough to use force majure? That’s a fair question, but it’s one that’s very difficult to answer. Whether force majure can be claimed on contracts during this time could be affected by what type of contract a person has, who the contract is with, and what kind of goods or services were to be delivered under that contract.

In short, some people and businesses are affected much more than others by the worldwide problems of COVID-19. For people who are badly affected and can prove it, claiming force majure should be easy and straightforward. But that’s actually not the case. It’s very hard to make this kind of claim and ensure that it has enough “sticking power” to hold up to a legal challenge. That’s because a force majure event must be specifically mentioned in a contract, and pandemics are often excluded.

Improbable Isn’t Good Enough, When Impossible is the Standard

Even if it’s much more difficult to fulfill a contract than it would have been before the unforeseen event occurred, that’s not enough to invoke force majure successfully. The only way these kinds of claims are really successful is if a party to the contract can show that there is no way that the contract can be fulfilled, and the reason for that is due to the event or circumstances that came from the event.

For example, even if the pandemic didn’t stop a person from making a sale or delivering the product they sold, the pandemic may have shut down the distributor where they would have gotten their product. That stopped them from delivering the sold product, and was a direct result of the unforeseen event. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely make people more careful of how they word their contracts in the future, to more fully include the kinds of problems they can have with force majure claims.

Not sure if your contract may qualify under a force majure claim? Need to create a contract and want legal advice? Reach out to us today at The Tough Law Firm, and let us help you get the proper guidance and support you’re looking for. That can reduce your chances of problems during this pandemic and any additional, unforeseen Acts of God that could take place in the future.

Diana Tough

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