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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 Jun Kwon
The Financial Accounting Standards Board released a new set of lease accounting standards, ASC 842, which went into effect earlier this year. Most significantly, publicly traded companies are now obligated to list all leases of 12 months or longer on their balance sheets as both assets and liabilities. Large private companies will follow suit in 2020.
By Howard A. Levine
Further comment and analysis is warranted on the three-judge dissent, which, if adopted by the majority, would have fundamentally altered the very foundation of New York contract law.
By Janice Inman
Defense Based on Federal Law Cannot Confer Federal Jurisdiction
By James O’Brien
Part Two of a Two-Part Article
Part One of this article outlined the basic elements of a subordination, non-disturbance and attornment agreement (SNDA), which regulates two competing interests in the same property — tenant’s right to possess its premises pursuant to its lease and mortgage lender’s security interest in that same premises. Part Two explains the differences between the concepts of “non-disturbance” and “recognition,” while contending that lease recognition is more important to the tenant than not having its possession disturbed.