Weddings Canceled by Coronavirus

Wedding Cancelled by Coronavirus? Here Are Your Legal Options

Weddings Canceled by Coronavirus

As wedding season approaches, couples across the nation are faced with the grim reality that their weddings have been involuntarily canceled due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This problem can be compounded when the chosen wedding venue refuses to refund the deposit or allow the couple to get out of the original contract. Consequently, we are likely to see an onslaught of lawsuits against wedding venues and vendors in the year to come, particularly breach of contract claims by brides-to-be against wedding venues and vendors for refusal to refund advanced payments for a wedding that never occurs.

If your wedding was canceled by coronavirus, you do have legal options. Your first step should be to speak with an experienced California business dispute lawyer who understands the relevant statutes and who can help you get out of the contract.

Legal Claims for Couples Whose Weddings Were Canceled Because of COVID-19

Finding out that you can no longer have your wedding at the venue you chose is already devastating enough without the possibility that you may be forced to pay for the wedding anyway. Fortunately, there is some hope for couples who need to get out of written contracts. For example, some wedding contracts may contain force majeure provisions, which means that you may be able to rescind your wedding contract if it is impossible to execute. Along those same lines, your wedding contract may be considered an unenforceable contract because it is against public policy.

What Is the Law on Wedding Contracts in California?

Wedding contracts create special circumstances around would-be newlyweds. The United States government has declared a national emergency. Certain states, such as California, have issued orders implementing “shelter in place” of all residents, ordering closure of all nonessential businesses, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. These rules have arguably created a public policy that weddings cannot go forward during the crisis.

Generally, a legal claim fails if it is based on an agreement that violates law and is contrary to public policy. In Kashani v. Tsann Kuen China Enter. Co., a California Appellate Court ruled that the law “has a long history of recognizing the general rule that certain contracts, though properly entered into in all other respects, will not be enforced if found to be contrary to public policy.” Given the public prohibition in California regarding gatherings of 10 or more people during the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone attending, hosting, or working a wedding would be acting contrary to public policy by threatening public health. Consider the legal implications for a bride who hires a wedding photographer, only to later find out that the wedding was canceled because of coronavirus. Legally speaking, that bride might not be obligated to pay the photographer.

Contact the Los Angeles Business Dispute Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

The challenge with wedding vendor contracts is the prevailing industry standard, whereby all services are typically pre-paid in full. Given the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the best move you can make right now is to speak with an attorney who understands California contract law, particularly as it relates to businesses.

The Los Angeles business dispute lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can advise you regarding your rights and obligations. We can also help you navigate the complex legal process. Call us at 310-590-3927 or send an email.

COVID-19 & Broken Contracts

Coronavirus and Broken Contracts

COVID-19 & Broken ContractsThe COVID-19 pandemic has left a trail of thousands of broken contracts in its wake, and this has come in a wide range of industries. From event cancelations to broken supply chains, coronavirus has caused millions of dollars in commercial losses and business interruption. Moreover, coronavirus and broken contracts could be a familiar theme in the coming months, as travel restrictions, event postponements, school and business closures, quarantines, supply-chain disruptions, cash flow problems, and worker shortages are expected to increase. This has left many California business owners to wonder: who is liable for the disruption caused by COVID-19? The answer could lie in what is known as the “force majeure” provision found in many contracts.

To learn more about the legal consequences for businesses that are forced to break contracts because of the coronavirus, keep reading.

What Is the Force Majeure Provision in Contract Law?

One provision often contained in comprehensive contracts is that of “force majeure.” Typically, force majeure provisions are included in contracts to excuse a breach if unforeseen circumstances prevent a party’s performance of the contract. This often means an act of God, such as hurricanes, war, earthquakes, etc. The force majeure doctrine is also commonly referenced as “impossibility of performance.”

Force majeure is literally French for “superior force,” and the concept originated in the Napoleonic Code of 1804. The breaching party to an agreement was condemned unless their non-performance or delay in performance resulted from a cause that could not be imputed to them, such as a superior force or a fortuitous occurrence.

What Could Force Majeure Mean for Broken Contracts Caused by COVID-19?

For most businesses, coronavirus is an unforeseen circumstance out of their control. But these cases can still result in litigation because the application of force majeure to any particular contract must be done by applying the law of the relevant jurisdiction. In California, the law recognizes that parties may not be held liable when unforeseen circumstances prevent them from fulfilling their contractual obligations, regardless of whether or not the contract has a force majeure clause. The leading California Supreme Court case defines force majeure as an “insuperable interference” occurring without the party’s intervention that “could not have been prevented by the exercise of prudence, diligence and care.” Insuperable in this context means “impossible to overcome.” Although the case dates back to World War II, it has been cited as recently as 2015 as proper guidance for the interpretation of contracts in California.

Support for this court decision comes from the State of California definition of “force majeure.” In its standard Judicial Council contracts, California defines force majeure as “a delay which impacts the timely performance of work for which neither Contractor nor the State are liable because such delay or failure to perform was unforeseeable and beyond the control of the party.” The standard contract goes on to specifically list “quarantine or epidemic” as such a circumstance. Thus, quarantines resulting from the coronavirus pandemic would render this provision operable and could excuse any California businesses that are forced to break a contract because of COVID-19.

Contact the Los Angeles Business Dispute Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Many contracts do not contain specific language in force majeure provisions. Thus, each contract must be carefully analyzed with the law of the jurisdiction in order for businesses to understand their options. Force majeure is one of many tools that business owners and individuals can use to mitigate the fallout from the current crisis. If you are a business owner who was forced to break a contract due to coronavirus, you have options to escape ruinous consequences.

The Los Angeles business dispute attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you. Call 310-590-3927 or send us an email.