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The key English contract law cases of 2020

The key English contract law cases of 2020

It has been a most unusual year. In response to the global pandemic, the Cabinet Office issued Guidance in the summer, encouraging contractual parties to act “responsibly and fairly” in the performance and enforcement of their contracts.

In a similar vein, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (“BIICL”) has published three Concept Notes, the first of which noted that a plethora of disputes from the pandemic would be destructive to good contractual outcomes and the effective operation of markets. However, the BIICL also recognised that there are some cases which do require the involvement of the courts.

Inevitably then, there have been disputes which have made it to the courts this year: some which started before the pandemic hit; some borne of the pandemic itself (notably, the recent insurance business interruption case, which you can read about here 1, and a case concerning material adverse effect clauses, which you can read about here); and others that presumably just could not be resolved consensually. What can we learn from the decisions in these disputes? In this briefing we review this year’s important contract cases and consider what commercial parties can learn from them.

1. At the time of writing, we note that the Supreme Court heard a leapfrog appeal from the decision of the High Court from 16-19 November 2020. The judgment is pending.


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The key English contract law cases of 2020


Contract Law Cases

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