I've written here before about buyers and borrowers raising defenses of impossibility or impracticability of performance or even force majeure under contracts because of the global economic situation. One of those deals was at 180 North LaSalle, where Younan Properties put down $6 million in hard earnest money to buy the building from Prime Group Realty Trust. Younan could not close and sued to get back the deposit.
Judge Maki in the Cook County Circuit Court has told Younan that it loses.
“The purchase and sales agreement is a promise to purchase this property for a set price on a set date with no provision for any financing contingency,” Judge Maki said. “That cannot be overlooked or given less importance because of other circumstances that. . . .possibly developed here.”....“That was the deal,” says Robert Hermes, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP, which represented Prime Group. Mr. Younan “assumed the risk if he didn’t have the cash to close.”Younan is appealing. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who used the force majeure argument with Deutsche Bank, is in a holding mode with the lender, whose counsel says courts are generally not buying the force majeure defense.
I haven't read the actual ruling, but impossibility of performance is a pretty steep hurdle to clear, even with fouled up credit markets. The precedent of a impossibility defense in these circumstances might also not be all that great from a public policy standpoint. But a few years ago we were doing hard money deals with no free looks in order to get the deal landed; and this is what happens. Perhaps it comes down to this: you pay your money, you take your chances. Who knows -- maybe the appellate court will disagree, so we'll stay tuned.
Have a good weekend!