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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 Alan Nochumson
Part One of a Two-Part Article
When entering into a lease for commercial space, there are some items that should not be overlooked. Landlords and tenants alike should make sure that the following things are addressed in the lease, one way or another.
By Ira Fierstein and Michelle Palka
An Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled in favor of a commercial tenant after a new owner acquired a commercial building and attempted to collect accrued unpaid rent owed to the previous landlord.
By Albena Petrakov
With the recent carnage in the retail industry, including Sears and many other retailers of all shapes and sizes, a lot of attention goes to the fate of landlords when their tenants seek bankruptcy protection.
First Court’s Lack of Jurisdiction over Cause of Action Means Second Action Is Not Barred