Recent events including hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and now pandemics are causing an increase in force majeure claims for the construction industry and are raising interesting and complex issues relative to force majeure clauses.
In general terms, force majeure claims essentially free both parties to a construction contract from liability or obligation for failure to perform in the event of extraordinary circumstances, such as “acts of God” or occurrences outside the control of the parties. Depending on the contract language, force majeure events can include unusually severe weather, labor strikes, natural disasters, or governmental actions/changes in law. Under most construction contracts, force majeure events are generally not considered to be compensable, meaning neither party is entitled to compensation as a result of the impact of the force majeure event. However, force majeure events are typically excusable delays and the contract completion date is extended for a period equal to the force majeure impact period.