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ProNetwork News: Private Arbitration – A better way to resolve construction disputes?

The November issue of ProNetwork News focuses on explaining the benefits of arbitration. The author, Melissa Dewey Brumback, is a litigation partner at Ragsdale Liggett PLLC of Raleigh, North Carolina. The bulk of her practice consists of representing architects and engineers in construction-related claims including construction administration and management, plan defects, testing failure claims and delay claims.

The following is an excerpt from Private Arbitration: A better way to resolve construction disputes?:

Architects and Engineers are very familiar with the concept of arbitration of construction disputes. The three main standard sets of form documents – AIA, EJCDC, and ConsensusDOCS, – all contemplate resolving disputes outside of a courtroom. In the past, the default tribunal was arbitration, and, in the case of AIA documents, arbitration through the American Arbitration Association (AAA).

AAA arbitration is, by and large, successful. The tribunal understands that construction disputes are not like typical breach of contract cases, and that individuals with specialized training and knowledge will likely better understand industry norms and terminology. Leaving such concepts as Requests for Information, Construction Change Orders, Construction Change Directives, Construction Administration v. Construction Management, Acceleration, Critical Path and other industry terms to a lay jury is often deemed unwise. By utilizing AAA arbitration, the parties can instead get a panel of industry experts to hear their case and, presumably, the matter can be dispensed with much more quickly and cheaply than traditional courtroom litigation.

However, if you have ever had a chance to participate in a full AAA arbitration, you know that its benefits come with costs: hefty filing fees, inflexible coordinators, uncertain evidence rules and more chance of a panel “splitting the baby.”

What is the best venue, then, for construction disputes? That depends on the size of your project, the nature of the dispute and the jurisdiction you are in. However, one option that is being used more and more is private arbitration.

Private arbitration can either be negotiated up front, during contract drafting, or after a dispute has arisen. In fact, I have even gotten opposing counsel to agree to private arbitration after they have filed the lawsuit.

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ProNetwork News is the latest value-added resource produced by a/e ProNet. Each monthly edition includes an informative, timely article relevant to the design industry and authored by an industry expert. Contact your local a/e ProNet broker for early access to these excellent newsletters.