As a residential and commercial construction arbitration lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I can assure you that most persons entering into a Georgia construction contract do not think of worst case scenarios should any parties to the contract fail to perform their obligations according to Georgia construction contract law and construction industry standards.
• What is Georgia Construction arbitration; Is it binding? How does it work?
• What will happens if a contracting party fails to pay?
• What happens if the purchaser of contractor or builder services cannot be satisfied no matter what is done?
• What will happen if the contractor or builder neglects his duties?
• What do I do if I receive a Georgia “Right to Repair Act” Letter?
• Do I need to, and should I, send a Georgia “Right to Repair Act” Letter?
• What will happen if residential or commercial construction does not meet or exceed industry standards?
The questions and scenarios surrounding Georgia construction claims are endless as are the actual real life occurrences, which I witness happening day in and day out. To survive in the construction business world, it is best to be prepared for all possibilities. The best way to do this is to have a contract in place which fairly, resourcefully, and adequately covers almost any issues which might arise in any Georgia construction claim scenario.
For years, Georgia construction litigation was considered the more costly, more time consuming manner of dealing with disputes, and so many contracts included arbitration clauses instead. Georgia construction arbitration has many varied forms and phases, which are its counterparts to Georgia litigation. It is usually up to the parties to an arbitration, with the assistance of the arbitrator or arbitration panel, to make the decisions about pre-arbitration matters which are somewhat customized to the construction case. The most important and controversial aspect to Georgia construction arbitration clauses are that they are binding decisions and cannot be appealed to any court absent extraordinary circumstances. Even then, they are rarely overturned by a court of competent jurisdiction, but merely modified. One might say the good news in all of this is that Georgia construction arbitration can be a relatively fast and inexpensive forum for resolving Georgia construction disputes.
However, others counter this argument stating that the cost of arbitration has skyrocketed while the time it takes for a case to make its way through Georgia state courts has diminished significantly.
Two California Supreme Court cases held that the courts cannot overturn a binding arbitration award even if the arbitrator fails to follow California substantive law. As a result, it becomes literally impossible to have an erroneous decision reviewed by the courts. While this is a California case, State Supreme Court holdings often have a strong influence on the courts in other states.
Needless to say, if you enter into a Georgia Contract with arbitration, you should consult a Georgia contract lawyer with expertise in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. This is especially true if the contract you are entering is a Georgia construction contract for new home construction, a renovation contract, or contract for any similar building, structure creation, or like-kind services.
Formerly a typical arbitration clause in a construction contract might read as follows:
All claims or disputes between the contractor and the Owner arising out of or relating to the Contract Documents, or the breach thereof, shall be decided by arbitration in accordance with the Construction Industry Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association currently in effect unless the parties mutually agree otherwise. The award rendered by the arbitrator or arbitrators shall be final, and judgment may be entered upon it in accordance with applicable law in any court having jurisdiction thereof.
– American Institute of Architects specifications (formA201) –
Due to the current trends in Georgia construction law and the arbitration process itself, as an Atlanta, Georgia construction lawyer with The Libby Law Firm, I would suggest incorporating certain additional considerations into arbitration clauses when used to give the parties to an arbitration greater control. For example,
Arbitration forum. The standard dispute resolution forum in the construction industry is the American Arbitration Association (AAA). However, recently, a number of other dispute resolution service providers (e.g. Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service “JAMS”) have developed and many attorneys now prefer them over the AAA. The choice of an arbitration forum should be reviewed in context of the cost, arbitration panel members, and forum arbitration rules. Particular attention should be paid to the forum’s arbitration rules since they are incorporated into the arbitration clause. Though, the arbitration clause may include provisions that delete all or portions of the forum’s rules.
Discovery. Most arbitration clauses limit the scope of pre-arbitration discovery. A well-drafted arbitration clause will restrict or expand discovery to correlate to the dollar value of the dispute.
Standard for Court Review of the Award. An arbitration clause can be drafted to require the arbitrators’ decision to comply with the substantive law. If the arbitrator violates such a provision, the parties to the arbitration may seek to overturn the award since the arbitrator exceeded the authority granted under the arbitration contract clause. To ensure that a court has enough information to properly review the arbitrators’ award the arbitration clause should also require the arbitrators to render a well- reasoned opinion. The opinion should include a statement of the factual determination made by the arbitrators and the conclusions of law rendered by the arbitrator. Finally, if you want the decision to be reviewed by the courts for compliance with substantive law, a provision should be included in the clause that clearly states that desire.
The best method for ensuring that a Georgia construction dispute is correctly and fairly resolved is through situation-specific clauses in properly-drafted construction contracts. The arbitration clause is one of many clauses included in a typical construction contract, and each clause can be affected greatly by recent changes in the law. It is thus wise for any construction contract to be drafted or at least reviewed by counsel before signing.
The Libby Law Firm Georgia construction lawyers can negotiate, review, and draft your construction contract in light of all of the most recent changes in accordance to Georgia construction law and arbitration proceedings, which is most favorable to you. If you are considering entering into a construction contract or amending a previous contract in light of recent changes in the law, contact our Atlanta construction contract law firm and come in for a consultation. Seeking the assistance of a seasoned Atlanta, Georgia construction contract and arbitration lawyer adept is the least you can do to protect yourself from worst case scenarios.
As a well-known Georgia construction arbitration lawyer with a perfect Avvo rating of 10, I am here to tell you that if anything can go wrong in a construction contract or in construction, it will. The very nature, imperfection, and importance construction combined with the building a home or commercial structure readily lends itself to disputes and conflict. This is likely true because for many, a home is the biggest purchase you will ever make in your life. In addition, construction is not what it seems to be on paper. It is, by its nature, imperfect and the result and methods of construction are readily subjective.
In short, protect yourself because this construction is “big deal” to parties to the contract and maintains a high rate of conflict.
If you have legal dispute or binding arbitration with a contractor, builder, sub-contractor or architect whose work does not meet or exceed Georgia industry standards, you should contact The Libby Law Firm without delay.