Historically, “Act of God” was defined to encompass sickness, but the concept has evolved, and it is unclear whether, in the absence of an express reference to epidemics in a force majeure clause, courts will find COVID-19 to be an Act of God. In “Tour de Force: What Constitutes an ‘Act of God,’ and Other Developments in Force Majeure Law,” colleagues Andrew C. Smith, Anne C. Lefever, Brian L. Beckerman, Adam R. Poliner, Stephanie S. Gomez and Colin Davis discuss the contours of the term “Act of God” and briefly cover new developments in case law regarding the doctrine of force majeure.
A recent Executive Order by President Trump directs agencies to expedite reviews of infrastructure projects based on the emergency provisions of several key federal environmental laws. In “President’s Executive Order to Expedite Environmental Reviews of Infrastructure Pushes the Envelope on the Interpretation of Emergency Authorities,” colleagues Sheila McCafferty Harvey, Reza Zarghamee, Mona E. Dajani and Alex Peyton discuss how these emergency provisions have been seldom invoked in the past, and when they have, the purpose often has been to fast-track immediate response actions to address environmental concerns, as opposed to facilitating infrastructure projects years in the making.
Co-head of Pillsbury’s Projects team, partner Robert A. James, and Environmental counsel Stella Pulman co-authored the article “Oil Regulation 2020: United States,” in which they describe the key commercial aspects of the U.S. oil sector; national energy policies; major laws concerning production activities, reservoir ownership and mineral rights; environmental, health and safety regulations; and other issues affecting the oil industry.
As we approach the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states and cities around the country have proposed safety measures for construction projects during the pandemic. These guidelines range from a single page of suggestions to multipage requirements handed down by state public health officers. In “DC Real Estate and Construction Committee Issues Recommendations as DC Prepares for Phased Reopening,” John Chamberlain discusses the ways that the District of Columbia has taken to implement a community-driven, “one size does not fit all” approach to establishing recommendations for reopening.
From mask-wearing to physical separation to staggered schedules and crowding-related transit incentives, implementing the new CDC guidelines may reshape office life. In “Updated CDC Guidelines Impact Business Districts, Office Buildings and Their Tenants, and Users,” colleagues Caroline A. Harcourt, Shani Rivaux, Jacob A. Axelrod and Amanda G. Halter outline how these guidelines contemplate a cooperative relationship between building owners and their employer tenants.
On May 26, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided three significant environmental law cases. Two of these cases involved whether global warming tort cases could be brought in California state courts on, for example, a public nuisance claim, and whether the defendant energy companies had the right to have them removed to the federal courts. Continue reading
Until COVID-19 officially took hold in the U.S. in March of 2020, the U.S. real estate market was active, even robust. Starting in March, however, the possible scope of the pandemic and the sudden imposition of stay-at-home orders resulted in deal volume falling precipitously—with sales, leasing and lending transactions being put on temporary “wait and see” pause or terminated altogether.
Over the past few months, construction projects in most states have carried on because construction was deemed essential and projects were exempted from government orders that closed businesses. In the jurisdictions that halted construction operations, state and local authorities are now easing those restrictions and allowing construction to resume. In “Safety Measures for Construction Projects During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” colleagues Laura Bourgeois LoBue and Jose L. Lua-Valencia discuss just how different construction sites will be than they were a few months ago under this new normal.
A recent court order issued as part of an ongoing litigation involving a Manhattan hotel held that a mezzanine lender may proceed with a UCC foreclosure sale of the mezzanine loan collateral despite N.Y.E.O. 202.8, which prevents creditors from initiating judicial foreclosures. In “Distressed Real Estate During COVID-19: New York State Court Order Finds UCC Foreclosures Are Not Suspended by New York E.O. 202.8.,” colleagues Robert J. Grados, Caroline A. Harcourt and Jacob A. Axelrod addresses the court’s denial of injunctive relief to the UCC foreclosure and determination that damages were an adequate remedy may have significant effects even after the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to mezzanine borrowers considering their defenses to UCC foreclosure proceedings.
On May 13, 2020, proposed California Senate Bill No. 939 was amended to not only prohibit landlords from evicting commercial tenants during the pendency of the COVID-19 state of emergency, but to extend protections to certain qualifying tenants permitting express rent reduction negotiation rights and lease termination rights. In “Proposed California Bill Would Ban Commercial Evictions During the State of Emergency and Grant Lease Termination Rights to Qualifying Tenants,” special counsel Carmela D. Nicholas explores how California Senate Bill 939 goes beyond the COVID-19 eviction moratorium imposed in most cities and counties across the state.