Coronavirus: I Threw a Party but Nobody Came
A typical scene in some movies or television series is the one in which a host decides to organize a party, only to find that his/her guests do not show up, asserting all sorts of excuses, real or invented, about a missed communication or a similar pretext…
Lately, newspapers have been packed with news related to numerous events that have been canceled worldwide as a result of the alarm generated by the “coronavirus”.
In Barcelona, two weeks ago, the “Mobile World Congress” was cancelled, after large numbers of expected companies declined to attend, thus generating a huge disappointment in the city.
In other countries, there have been other types of cancelled sporting events, fairs, halls, congresses, etc.
In all cases, they threw a party but nobody came …
Likewise, multiple contracts for the delivery of goods or the provision of services throughout the world have suffered disruptions that have prevented or greatly impeded their fulfillment.
We have been receiving lately some queries from clients who are suffering from this type of problem. As a result, we have found out that the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade is issuing “force majeure certificates”, in an attempt to exempt its exporting companies from contractual obligations contracted with international clients.
However, there is a current of opinion – with which we agree – that considers that these certificates do not have contractual effects by themselves, but only attest to certain factual circumstances. Only a court can declare that the outbreak of a disease and the emergency measures declared by the competent authority, constitute force majeure events in accordance with the applicable law.
As far as we know, except for some very specific cases (such as the confinement decreed in a hotel in Tenerife), no general government or administrative measures have been enacted in Spain to the effect of prohibiting certain activities, or establishing quarantines, etc.
We see, therefore, difficult that, as of today, a Spanish court appreciates circumstances of force majeure to exempt a part of the fulfillment in Spain of a contract subject to Spanish law – except in very exceptional cases, concrete and very located in that a governmental measure of this nature has been adopted.
We must be aware, however, that there is no uniform international doctrine regarding force majeure. Different countries adopt different doctrines to assign contractual risk to an unpredictable change of circumstances.
Therefore, if you know of any case of this sort in any country in the world, contact us. We are curious to know how you are reacting to these cases internationally and we are interested in joining efforts, if necessary, to deal with these types of situations.