Force majeure, at its simplest, can be described as matters that are outside the control of the parties, which could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of the contract being entered into and whose effects prevent performance of the contract.
Derived from the literal French translation for ‘superior force’, force majeure clauses are found in most commercial law contracts but the term ‘force majeure’ does not actually have a recognised meaning under law.
Whether the legal interpretation changes remains to be seen and it is perhaps too early to define what that would be.
Parties should be wary of just adding a general “pandemic clause” to a contract or similar. There is no one size fits all in relation to the effects that could arise. It is best to consider the specific risks that could conceivably occur (in relation to timing, price, damages, changes to statutory requirements, termination and suspension) and add amendments to those clauses specifically rather than adding a clause with could contradict other clauses within the contract.
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