Up until a week ago, most of you had never heard the phrase “force majeure.” However, I imagine that since then many of you have dusted off your contracts to see if yours contains that clause.

What happens if the answer is no? Are you out of luck? Not necessarily. There is a doctrine called “impossibility of performance.”

Simply stated, the impossibility of performance doctrine is a form of judicial “gap filling” when a contract between parties fails to allocate risks occasioned by unforeseen events.

It is to be used sparingly. But it has been around for a long time. To go back to the beginning, a court in 1863 said “in contracts in which the performance depends on the continued existence of a person or thing, a condition implied that the impossibility of performance arising from the perishing of the person or thing shall excuse the performance.”

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “no force majeure clause, no problem,” under our current circumstances there are things you can say and do.

Robert M. Bovarnick, Esquire
Bovarnick and Associates, LLC

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all of the information and content in this article are for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Nothing in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship, which would require an engagement letter. However, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

by Robert M. Bovarnick

Rob Bovarnick is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. Prior to starting his firm, he was Vice Chair of the Bankruptcy Group at a 170 lawyer firm and head of the Creditor’s Rights practice at a 20 lawyer firm. He is the former Chair of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Conference.