With the unfolding coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak labelled as a pandemic, businesses, universities, and other institutions are presented with novel challenges. From a legal perspective, the evolving situation will likely implicate previously seldom-used contractual excuses in a variety of commercial contexts. Businesses will also have to consider potential tort liability as they seek to keep running, while providing for the safety of employees and patrons. Given the stakes, the novelty of the issues, and the fact that many decisions will entail losses by some party or constituency, litigation will undoubtedly stem from the unfolding crisis. A framework for considering some of the unfolding issues around contractual disruptions and potential tort liability may assist private sector leaders in making decisions during this epidemic that may later be the subject of litigation. This memorandum reviews the evolving landscape to provide guidance for navigating some of these difficult challenges.
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