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Practical advice for businesses and individuals

How does this pandemic impact me?

Aside from the widely reported health and societal impacts, Covid-19 is having a profound impact on businesses and the economy. That in turn gives rise to various legal issues you will want to keep an eye on. Below we discuss how this ‘disaster movie’ global health crisis may impact your business and commercial agreements, your travel plans, your savings and your attendance at cultural events.

How will my future travel plans be impacted?

Living in Jersey complicates travel arrangements at the best of times. Fog, storms, airline insolvencies, and now a pandemic have all disrupted travel plans for islanders this month. For those concerned about their travel plans and their insurance protection, expect insurers and airlines to take their cue from official government advice. If you go against official guidance, you risk invalidating your insurance policy. If the government has not issued a warning about the country you are booked to visit, you cannot expect financial compensation if you cancel. Unfortunately a disinclination to travel is not usually provided for in policies. Some progressive businesses are allowing customers to delay or rebook travel for free. Check your documentation to be sure.

What if my theatre / event tickets are cancelled?

Advice, policy and guidance are changing daily and in some cases hour by hour; so this article may be out of date already by the time you read it. Government policy now states that public venues such as theatres should no longer be visited. If events are cancelled then in the first instance you need to contact the company that sold tickets to you and request a refund if it doesn’t offer one automatically. If an event you have tickets for is postponed, hold on to those tickets until a new date is announced. If you’re unable to attend the rescheduled date, you may be able to claim a refund of the ticket’s face-value price.
If an event you have tickets for is postponed, hold on to those tickets until a new date is announced. If you’re unable to attend the rescheduled date, you may be able to claim a refund of the ticket’s face-value price.

Can I rely upon Force Majeure / Act of God provisions in my contracts?

If contracts cannot be honoured by both sides due to Covid-19, the defaulting party may look to rely on ‘Force Majeure’ provisions. Often called ‘Act of God’ clauses, these allow a party to rely on them as a defence to a claim for damages for breach of contract. Unless lawyers drafting agreements were incredibly prescient and long sighted, most contracts will not expressly refer to the outbreak of a pandemic. Where a contract is silent on the event, the party that wishes to rely upon this defence shall have to prove, that the event was not ‘reasonably contemplated’ when entering into the contract. The event will also need to be beyond the ‘reasonable control’ of the party seeking the relief. Where a Force Majeure event occurs, performance of certain obligations within the contract may be agreed to be suspended for a specified period of time rather than terminated.

Is my investment nest egg at risk?

No one has the ability to read the tea leaves to predict how this crisis shall impact investment portfolios in the long term (save for Warren Buffett perhaps). However, general market sentiment appears to be that the risk of the current market correction evolving into a full financial crisis is low. Some current thought leadership even suggests that this may be a good time for long term investors to add to their portfolios. Investors would be prudent to read their providers’ terms of business and ask them for advice in relation to the implications of the crisis upon investments.

How we can help

At Viberts, our lawyers are on hand to provide you with expert advice during these uncertain times. From Litigation, Corporate, Employment and Personal Law, we will provide sensible and pragmatic guidance to work around the ever-growing implications of COVID-19.

For more information, email oliver.hughes@viberts.com.

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