Here is the final installment in the 3-part series by guest legal writer, Roxann Smithers. – TW
Fighting Smart: A Guide to Contract Dispute Resolution, Part 3
Although each phase of dispute resolutions has its own structure, benefits, and drawbacks there are a few common pieces of advice that can be given. First, the parties should make note of any time deadlines at each phase. One may be required to provide written notice of the claim or dispute within a certain amount of time. The parties may have to wait ninety (90) days before making an arbitration claim or filing suit.
Second, when a project has multiple contract layers, the lower tier parties must pay attention to dispute resolution provisions that create a separate structure for disputes involving the owner. For example, when a subcontractor’s claim involves a change of scope dictated by the owner, the subcontractor may be required to refer to the Prime Contract’s dispute resolution provisions and those provisions may be very different from what is contained in the subcontract. The subcontractor should review the Prime Contract provisions and make sure it is in compliance as early as possible.
Third, the parties should make sure to document the claim and the dispute to maximize their ability to substantiate their respective positions. The parties also want to memorialize any communications or commitments regarding the project, contract, or dispute. Finally, legal counsel can play an invaluable role in helping the parties identify relevant facts, documents, contractual provisions, and arguments to frame their positions in a persuasive manner. Counsel can also help each group look realistically at their chance of success in order to maximize the claim or defenses.
In all cases, all parties to a contract provision want to ensure a smooth road to completion of the project or contract, but when bump arises it is better to be prepared and understand the contract provisions that will dictate how the issue is overcome.
Roxann S. Smithers, Esq. provides commercial, construction, premise liability, and contract review/negotiation services at her SMB-focused firm, The Law Offices of Roxann Smithers, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Smithers’ practice includes both litigation and transactional work. Ms. Smithers can be contacted at rsmithersLORS@yahoo.com or (404) 981-7928.