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Commercial Leases and Frustration of Purpose, Impossibility Defenses: Strategies for Landlords and Tenants

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Monday, April 8, 2024

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will guide landlord and tenant counsel on contractual and common law defenses in breach of lease cases due to failure to pay rent. The panel will address recent case law regarding how courts have analyzed claims of frustration of purpose, impossibility, and other common law defenses.


Commercial landlords and tenants should understand the evolving case law related to available defenses where the tenant is unable to pay rent. Many lessons were learned during the pandemic, e.g., effectively using contractual force majeure clauses or, alternatively, common law defenses to seek relief; and case law has evolved accordingly.

Often-used common law defenses include impossibility of performance, commercial impracticability, and frustration of purpose. Counsel for commercial landlords and tenants should know how courts are ruling on contractual and common law defenses to prepare the best case moving forward. Defense counsel must also understand the state specifics related to common law defenses such as what qualifies as an impossibility and when and how a force majeure clause may override the availability of this common law defense.

Listen as our expert panel reviews the status of notable landlord-tenant cases that have utilized the common law doctrines of impossibility and frustration of purpose. The panel will advise on best practices when this defense is asserted and when, in the alternative, the contract language will be the determining factor.



  1. Contractual vs. common law defenses in commercial leases
    1. Force majeure
    2. Impossibility
    3. Frustration of purpose
    4. Commercial impracticability
  2. Notable recent state decisions
  3. Best practices


The panel will review these and other relevant topics:

  • What are the common law doctrines/defenses used in commercial landlord-tenant cases?
  • How did the pandemic affect the evolution of case law related to certain contractual and common law defenses, and what are current cases demonstrating the viability of these defenses today?
  • When must a tenant rely on the force majeure clause in a lease?


Heydt, MaryBeth
MaryBeth Heydt

Senior Counsel
Husch Blackwell

Ms. Heydt has focused her real estate practice on transactions since 1999 and currently devotes a significant portion...  |  Read More

Weltman, Jeremy
Jeremy Y. Weltman

Ruberto Israel & Weiner

Mr. Weltman's wide-reaching litigation practice focuses on finding successful resolutions to his clients' legal...  |  Read More

Wurtzel, Joshua
Joshua Wurtzel

Schlam Stone & Dolan

Mr. Wurtzel’s practice focuses on high-stakes, complex commercial litigation and corporate governance disputes....  |  Read More

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