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Parties in complex commercial cases that are accused of defaulting on or breaching a contract may invoke the defense of impossibility, arguing that performance of contractual obligations was rendered impossible by an intervening event. Under New York law, those arguments rarely make it past the motion stage. Courts apply the doctrine narrowly, only to executory contracts and only where the intervening event was both unforeseeable and destroyed either the contract’s subject matter or the means of performance. The related doctrine of frustration of purpose may apply more broadly, but only where it would make little sense to perform on a contract because of an intervening event. The narrowness of these doctrines — and their questionable utility for litigators — underscores the importance of striving during the contract drafting process to include contingency clauses providing for foreseeable possibilities and language making clear the contract’s purpose.
By Janice G. Inman
Bankruptcy is a fact of life in the United States. When it happens, the treatment of a lease as either residential or non-residential may be crucial to all parties -- landlords, tenants, subtenants and their counselors.
By Barry M. Klayman and Mark E. Felger
In a recent decision, Bankruptcy Judge Christopher S. Sontchi addressed the question of whether a Chapter 11 debtor, the tenant under a commercial lease, could exercise an option to renew the lease during the bankruptcy proceedings, even though the debtor was in default under the lease and the lease specified that it could not be renewed if defaults existed at the time the option was exercised.
By David B. Saxe and Danielle C. Lesser
Is This The End of the ‘Yellowstone’ Doctrine?
Recently, New York’s Appellate Division, Second Department, acknowledged that commercial landlords may employ a strategy that prevents tenants from exercising Yellowstone rights, which enjoin the landlord from terminating the lease or commencing a summary proceeding.
Slip-and-Fall Victim Cannot Recover from Landlord or Tenant