Coronavirus as Force Majeure?

The situation concerning the novel coronavirus (officially known as COVID-19) is rapidly evolving. The landscape of the virus’ spread and its impacts continues to change dramatically, with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of new cases being confirmed every day and new countries—far from the likely origin of the virus in Wuhan, China —being added to the map of the virus’ spread.

Concern, and some panic, is expanding and beginning to impact commerce across the globe. The Financial Times recently reported that China has issued a record number of force majeure certificates purporting to exempt exporters there, including steel, electronic and auto parts suppliers, from fulfilling supply contracts overseas. Fears surrounding the coronavirus’ impact on global supply chains have been driving radical stock market fluctuations. On February 28, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended its worst week since 2008 as U.S. investors became increasingly concerned about the virus’ spread to other Asian and European countries.