In More Than a Flooded Cellar. A Vintage Mystery., the New York Times describes Sandy-related legal battles queuing up with several individuals who stored their wine with WineCare, a company that "marketed itself as a high-security cellar that stores, catalogs and cares for 27,000 cases of wine in the basement of a Manhattan warehouse, charging substantial fees to safeguard collections worth tens of millions of dollars."
What's the number one claim likely to be brought? Breach of contract. There's a slight problem with the remedy, however. Much of the wine is irreplaceable. Monetary damages may be available, but it may be impossible to replace some (or much) of the lost wine due to its rarity.
If you find yourself representing either side of a similar battle once you enter practice, pay close attention to a clause many people fail to read closely: force majeure (a/k/a "acts of God" or "acts of nature") will likely play a big role in determining WineCare's liability. If you're drafting contracts for a company like WineCare, also ensure the force majeure clause is picked up in the limitation on liability. For more on these types of clauses and drafting generally, check out the following:
- Force majeure and hardship under general contract principles
- Frustration and force majeure
- Governing disasters: the challenges of emergency risk regulation