My advice to home builders has long been to arbitrate construction defect claims instead of litigating them in front of juries. Based on my experience and watching others litigate claims, I have learned that home builders usually fare better in arbitration than in jury trials, both in terms of what they have to pay the homeowners or HOAs and also in what they recover from subcontractors and design professionals. Because of these dynamics, conventional wisdom has been that builders should arbitrate construction defect claims. For several reasons, I am now questioning whether the time is right to consider a third option.
First, plaintiffs’ attorneys dislike arbitration and will continue their attempts to do away with arbitration for construction defect claims. In 2018, the Colorado Legislature considered HB 18-1261 and HB 18-1262. While both bills were ultimately killed, they showed the plaintiffs’ attorneys disdain for arbitration, and serve as a warning that attempts to prevent arbitration legislatively will continue. If the legislature does away with the ability to arbitrate construction defect claims, and that is the only means of dispute resolution contained in a builder’s contracts, that builder may find itself in front of a jury.