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What is a Force Majeure Clause in a Contract?

Contracts of all kinds often try to account for future issues. You will often see clauses about what each party can do in specific circumstances. However, nobody can account for every possible event that could affect that way a contract works. That’s why an Ohio contract lawyer may suggest adding a force majeure clause into a contract to cover all your bases. 

What Does “Force Majeure” Mean in a Contract?

The term “force majeure” means “superior force” in French. As such, a force majeure contract provision is one that details each party’s responsibility in the event of something major beyond their control. Typically, force majeure clauses excuse one or both parties from their contractual duties in the face of an event that makes fulfilling the contract:

  • Impossible
  • Impracticable
  • Illegal

For example, a borrower may not need to go through with buying a piece of real estate if the home is torn down by a tornado before the transaction is complete. These kinds of circumstances are typically rare, unforeseen, and outside the scope of control for either party. This is why they fall under the force majeure portion of the contract.

What Kinds of Events Do Force Majeure Clauses Cover?

While force majeure is a general term encompassing many types of emergencies, the courts tend to interpret these clauses rather narrowly. As such, it’s vital for anyone creating a contract to spell out exactly what types of issues the clause covers. Simply saying that it covers “acts of God” is often not enough to protect your interests. Some disasters you may wish to include are:

  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorism or threats of terrorism
  • Civil disorder 
  • Labor strikes
  • Disease outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics
  • Transportation issues
  • War
  • Fire

When thinking about what to include, it’s important to make the clause as relevant as possible. For example, you probably do not need to specifically call out hurricanes if your contract pertains to property in Ohio. However, you may need to think about labor strikes for all employment contracts.

How Does the Novel Coronavirus Affect Your Contract?

The United States and the rest of the world are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has affected every facet of life–from how people work to the lack of socialization. Many contract holders wonder if this pandemic, state of emergency, and shelter-in-place orders will change their duties for the contract. 

It may be years until the world fully understands all the ramifications of this disease, but people need answers now. In general, it’s important to refer to the exact wording of the force majeure portion of your contract. If it specifically mentions disease, pandemics, or states of emergency, you may not have to fulfill your duties of the contract. Furthermore, if fulfilling the contract would force you to break the law, such as a curfew set by some cities, then you may also be free from fulfilling your duties during the curfew. 

However, no lawyer can tell you exactly what you can do without seeing the contract. If you believe you may not be able to fulfill the duties of a contract due to the novel coronavirus, be sure to contact an Ohio contract lawyer immediately.

When to Contact an Ohio Contract Lawyer

If you’re not sure whether the coronavirus pandemic or another emergency is covered under your force majeure clause, be sure to contact an Ohio contract lawyer for clarity. The attorneys at Niekamp, Weisensell, Mutersbaugh & Mastrantonio have plenty of experience in contract law, so we can help even in unprecedented times. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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