Under Hungarian law, there is no straightforward statutory definition of “Force Majeure” (in Hungarian the term “Vis maior” is used), however, Hungarian judicial practice has developed its own concept which describes Force Majeure as:
“an irresistible force, an event that no human and no one can resist. There are certain natural disasters, but this also includes human movements that are of human origin and also have irresistible, elemental power (i.e. war, revolution, or the disappearance of currency without replacement). Events of “force majeure” do not only make the performance of a valid contract difficult but they make it absolutely impossible for the human force.”
Natural disasters (i.e. pandemics, earthquakes etc.), certain political and social events (i.e. war, riots, sabotage, the closing of airports, drastic economic changes etc.) can be considered as basic cases of Force Majeure. State measures for example (i.e. boycotts, bans, export and travel restrictions etc.) can be considered as such circumstances that fall outside of the control of the parties and can be considered as a Force Majeure in certain cases, if other criteria such as foreseeability, preventability and the exhaustion of other alternatives are met. It is also clear from the jurisprudence that there is no general Force Majeure, but in each case it has to be verified individually whether the conditions of Force Majeure are met.
The fact alone that there is a pandemic does not alter contracts in place between parties. In such a case, if the performance of the contract is still possible, neither party is freed of their obligations. However, governmental measures adopted during the fight against the epidemic could result in making the performance of many contracts legally impossible.
The parties can define Force Majeure in their contract, i.e. what should or should not be considered as a circumstance where exemption from liability is possible. In addition, any liability limitation or exclusion clauses in the contract must be carefully considered. Thus, the first step is always a thorough examination of the individual agreement of the parties. If there is no written contract, or it does not mention anything about Force Majeure, the parties will have to rely on the judicial practice of the Hungarian courts regarding cases with Force Majeure.