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Force Majeure and COVID-19: Legal risks of a double-edged sword

Posted by Howard Mann

Force Majeure and COVID-19: Legal risks of a double-edged sword

COVID-19 has caused the broadest and deepest health and economic impacts of any single non-war event since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The virus itself, and the governmental measures in relation to the virus, have now become woven into a singular event that cannot be easily or simplistically disaggregated for legal purposes. Both these components are unprecedented in scope and scale, and both will present challenges for companies and governments seeking to manage the impacts of the virus and government measures taken globally in response to it.

One issue that has quickly arisen is whether the COVID-19 event constitutes a force majeure under national or international law. The particular challenge for governments is that they will be facing claims of force majeure by companies in relation to performing their operations, while also in many cases having to make similar legal claims to defend measures they have taken in response to COVID -19.

IGF Senior Advisor Howard Mann has published the following guidance to help governments navigate this delicate legal issue of force majeure in the context of the global pandemic.