What Do You Do When Your Contract Does Not Contain A Force Majeure Clause?

As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread rapidly throughout the United States—and the world—commercial relationships are being thrown into disarray, resulting in the disruption of supply chains, cancellations of events, and closures of restaurants and other businesses. Several states have declared a state of emergency (including banning large group gatherings and mandating that certain business shutter for the time being). Many companies are requiring that their employees work remotely. As a result of the substantial impact on “business as usual” operations, companies are facing decisions about what to do when COVID-19 circumstances make it difficult (if not impossible) to comply with certain contractual obligations. Will COVID-19 provide your company with a legal defense excusing performance?

If you are operating under a contract governed by United States law, the first place to look for the answer is within the four corners of the contract document itself. Specifically, check your contracts to determine whether there are force majeure or other impossibility of performance-type clauses. If not, are you out of luck? The answer differs depending on the subject matter of the contract.
Continue Reading Is Your Contract Virus-Proof? [Part II]

While the coronavirus has sent shockwaves through every service sector, the impact on the transportation industry has been especially severe. Automotive plants have shut down, new car sales have plummeted, and Uber and Lyft have reduced their workforce as social distancing has drastically reduced the demand for ride-hailing. In a world where stay-at-home orders are the norm, all forms of mobility have seen an abrupt decline and the entire transportation economy has suffered. Providers of shared mobility services like Uber, Zipcar, and Turo have struggled to sustain themselves in a world where consumers are ultra-conscious of human contact.

In a post-coronavirus world, mobility businesses will have economic incentives to deploy updated health practices to reassure their customers. But there are legal liabilities to consider as well. Lawsuits relating to the coronavirus outbreak have already begun and many more are expected. The threat of exposure-related lawsuits are of particular concern, especially as businesses reopen amidst uncertainty about the continued dangers of contracting the virus.
Continue Reading Life After Coronavirus: New Challenges for New Mobility Services

Proactive Analysis and Protocols Can Reduce Costs and Better Ensure Continuity of Supply

The extent of disruption caused by COVID-19 is unknowable at this time. However, it is likely that there will be suppliers unable to economically weather the storm. Having represented manufacturing customers and suppliers for decades, one thing is certain: even the most sophisticated entities make costly mistakes in addressing distressed suppliers without realizing they paid more as a customer than was necessary. “We only know what we know,” and preparing a customer to successfully address distressed supplier situations requires a different skill set than in representing or being a quality supplier.

Wrong moves at the very outset of troubled supplier matters can be the most costly. Immediate preparedness can reduce costs. As just one example, often a “Tier 1” manufacturer acts also as a “Tier 2” by selling product to its supplier, which the supplier then works on and sells back to the Tier 1 manufacturer. Failure to recognize that situation or have advisers that understand the resulting practical, financial and legal implications and how they relate to other customer positions can lead to losses that could have been avoided by early action.
Continue Reading How Customers in the Automotive Supply Chain Can Prepare for Distressed Suppliers Resulting From COVID-19

Insurance Claims, Force Majeure Notices and Protecting Other Legal Rights In The Wake Of Global Supply Chain Disruption Caused By COVID-19

Dykema is closely monitoring the potential threat of legal fallouts in the wake of supply chain disruption caused by the novel Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19). In the last month, companies reliant on the global supply chain have been faced with part shortages and overall supply chain disruption. Production facility shutdowns as well as halted transportation, primarily in China, are the main causes of these issues. As the virus spreads, it is expected that facilities and transportation in other countries will be impacted as they seek to contain the virus.

Practically speaking, your company should mitigate business risks caused by current and anticipated supply chain disruption, including: 1) obtaining up-to-date production information on all players in your global supply chain, both upstream and downstream; and 2) making arrangements to secure alternative parts and materials to ensure continuity of supply where possible. However, in addition to addressing these essentials, don’t forget to check your contracts and insurance policies, including:
Continue Reading Is Your Contract Virus-Proof?