Force majeure is a legal term that allows a contract to be terminated without liability, explained Tyra Warner, PhD, JD, CMP, Chair of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism, and Culinary Arts College of Coastal Georgia, and a frequent panelist and speaker on meeting-related legal issues. Whether force majeure applies depends on the specific facts surrounding the specific meeting in question, and to some extent, the language in the force majeure clause in the contract, Warner emphasized.
“For force majeure to apply, it must be the coronavirus itself and not, for example, the fear of the coronavirus that makes it illegal, impossible, or impracticable—depending on the language in the contract—to hold the meeting,” she said. “As with the Zika virus, we saw many people who were fearful of travel, but fear is not a force majeure. The more closely coronavirus can be directly tied to people’s inability—rather than lack of desire—to travel, the more assured planners can be that it is approaching a force majeure situation.”