While short on facts, a recent decision out of the Southern District rejected the defendants’ claim that their inability to pay on a consent judgment was due to COVID-19. The defendants did not deny liability, only that their payment should be excused because the virus and the circumstances rendered them unable to pay.
Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron rejected that argument. Asserting the impossibility defense, held the Judge, is only available when performance is rendered “‘objectively impossible’” by an unforeseen event that could not be anticipated. The “‘means of performance’” must have been destroyed; financial or economic difficulties would not suffice even if those hardships resulted in an objective inability to pay.
With this, while the defendants’ “financial difficulties arising out of COVID-19 and the PAUSE Executive Order” may have adversely affected their ability to pay, their obligation to do so cannot be excused.
Asserting an impossibility defense, as we have noted, is not an easy task, and COVID-19 seems unlikely to provide a free pass.
Lantino v. Clay, LLC