With most construction projects involving dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and individuals, it is no surprise that conflicts arise that are not always able to be resolved on the jobsite. But these conflicts need not always reach the court room or cost thousands (or much more) to resolve. With some planning, contractors can build faster and less expensive dispute resolution options into their project so they can spend more time keeping the project moving and less time arguing over who is right.
Even for modest-sized projects, a multi-tiered approached to dispute resolution can be helpful. As a first level of dispute resolution, consider requiring the relevant parties to attend informal or formal mediation. The benefits of even an informal mediation is that it can get stalemated parties to the table to talk again. Formal mediation adds the benefit of a neutral third-party who can help get talks moving or help antagonistic parties communicate.
Further, mediation allows each side an opportunity to hear what the other side is looking for to resolve the dispute. Not only is this valuable in reaching a compromise, but it also gives each side an idea of what the other will bring to the table in any subsequent litigation. Finally, there are many ways to implement these procedures. General contractors can require pre-suit mediation with their subcontractors to resolve one-on-one disputes but should also consider requiring subcontractors to use pre-suit mediation to resolve disputes between subcontractors or between subcontractors and sub-subcontractors or material suppliers if the dispute threatens the progress at the project.
Reprinted courtesy of Jason Lambert, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.