Monday, June 22, 2020

Mock trial parses contract conundrum

     “Any lane?” I asked the lifeguard last week, as I stood before the shimmering blue pool at the North Suburban YMCA.
     “Not many sign up this time of day,” she said, apologetically.
     The pool was completely empty. I felt like King Farouk.
     “It’s like a dream!” I gloated. “Except for the plague part.”
     It might say something about the mundane quality of my existence. But during months of lockdown, when I tried to look forward to the future, swimming laps at the Y was the first benchmark of the return of ordinary life.
     I kept paying dues, through April and May, even though the Y was closed. Because a) the Y rocks; b) I want the Y to survive — not all of them did; c) the dues aren’t that much — de minimis, as lawyers say; and d) I didn’t want to be what in legal circles is called “a jerk.”
     But let’s say I were a jerk. Let’s say I angrily demanded my dues back; only about 15% of members canceled, according to the Y. Would I get them? That would depend on the exact wording of the membership agreement, on what kind of force majeure clause it has.
     Force ma-what?
     “It’s a phrase that nobody knew about until three months ago, even among lawyers,” said Abbe Lowell, a top trial attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Chicago’s Winston & Strawn.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. I'm not a lawyer, but I heard of & know what force majeure is. Heard about it decades ago. Abbe Lowell lives in a bubble!

  2. I rather like the Coronation Cases as exemplars of what can happen when you don't account for every single possible contingency in a contract, no matter how remote or unlikely.


  3. There's a Swedish movie from 2014 called "Force Majeure." Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (winner of the same from the Chicago Film Critics Association, and others), that's what I think of when I see the term from today's column. While it's kinda slow and disturbing, we found it intriguing and interesting, as well, and thought it was worth watching.

    That movie scored 94% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. This year there was an American remake called "Downhill" starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus which, of course, bombed and was liked by only 14 percent of audience raters on RT.


Thank you for your comment, which will be published at the discretion of the proprietors.