Transformation of several issues of exemption from obligations under cross-border and domestic contracts due to COVID-19: analysis of judicial practice

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The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the entire life of the society. Today, the world witnesses the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is evidenced by the steadily increasing number of new cases of contamination. Despite the difficult situation, every day merchants continue to conclude cross-border and domestic contracts. Therefore, the issue of exemption from obligations due to the onset of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is relevant and requires detailed consideration. We propose to analyze two concepts, namely, force majeure and a significant change in circumstances (hardship), in order to analyze the judicial practice (case law) developing at the international level in different countries and at the national level in the Russian Federation. The article analyzes international acts of both state and non-state regulation, examines the approaches of foreign state courts to the issues of exemption of counterparties from fulfilling obligations due to the onset of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and practice of Russian courts. The study was conducted using general scientific and special methods of cognition: logical, systemic-structural, methods of generalization, synthesis, induction, and deduction. Certain substantive conclusions are made based on the comparative research method. Analysis of the Russian judicial practice concerning the application of the concept of exemption from the fulfillment of obligations shows that, unfortunately, Russian courts apply dual practice regarding recognition of a particular circumstance as a basis for releasing a counterparty from liability. This is explained by the fact that the principle of pacta sunt servanda (contracts must be executed) continues to be of decisive importance in international practice. With regard to the second concept application, namely, a significant change in circumstances, we note a positive practice of Russian courts. Currently, the Russian courts recognize the circumstance that affected performance under the contract due to the onset of coronavirus infection or consequences of the COVID-19 as a significant change in circumstances.

About the authors

Yana O. Alimova

Kutafin Moscow State Law University (MSAL)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7368-8526

Candidate of Legal Science, Associate Professor of the International Private Law Department, Chief of Legal Moot Department

9 Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya str., Moscow, 125933, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2022 Alimova Y.O.

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