Owners and contractors trying to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on their projects are likely turning to delay[1] or force majeure provisions in their construction contracts to assess their rights or liabilities for continued performance. An event of force majeure is a circumstance that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract, and many articles recently have been written addressing the contours of typical force majeure clauses.
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With the exponential spread of COVID-19, owners, contractors, and design professionals are recognizing the substantial impact this pandemic will have on the construction industry. Several states issued shelter-in-place orders, resulting in the suspension of some construction work.[1] In some states, this has resulted in work stoppages on some of our nation’s largest infrastructure projects. The financial impact of these work stoppages will be significant. As a result, parties to construction agreements have looked to their force majeure clauses for guidance on how these issues should be addressed.
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Globally, many developers and contractors are scrambling to identify available contractual relief as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disrupts cross-border supply chains. US businesses will recall a similar effort just eighteen months ago, when the Trump Administration announced increased tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods. That trade war prompted  companies to scrutinize remedies and mitigate associated project risks by tapping alternative sources originating in other Asian countries and Canada. Once again, construction industry stakeholders should reexamine delay provisions in pending and future contracts to mitigate risks arising from project disruptions caused by COVID-19.

This article provides an overview of US case law interpreting the doctrine of force majeure in the context of disease-related delay claims. Drawing on that guidance, we then identify practical considerations for applying existing force majeure or related delay provisions and how they may be modified for future projects.
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