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.

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  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.


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