Here at Construction Law Musings, I have discussed the pros and cons of various forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), including arbitration. I am a fan of most ADR, but less of one for arbitration than for mediation. However, where the arbitration can be done under a good set of cost-containing rules and with an arbitrator that is experienced in construction, arbitration can help with the resolution of construction claims. Of course, arbitration provisions in construction contracts are routinely upheld by the courts of Virginia with limited exceptions. One of these exceptions is where the arbitration clause is unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. A recent case out of the Western District of Virginia, Marroquin v. Dan Ryan Builders Mid-Atlantic LLC, shows how high a hurdle it is to get a court to invalidate an arbitration provision.
In this case, the Marroquins purchased a new construction home from the Defendants. As is often the case in such purchase transactions, Defendant provided a limited warranty agreement (in this case provided by Quality Builders Warranty Corporation (“QBW”)) that along with the sales contract contained a mandatory arbitration provision. The parties executed the limited warranty and the sale proceeded with the Marroquins taking possession. Over the next year or so, the County inspector’s office issued several correction orders to Defendant, and the Marroquins, through counsel, identified numerous defects in construction, many of which they alleged to remain unremedied. Needless to say, they sued for breach of statutory warranty and for breach of the limited warranty. Defendant removed the case to Federal District Court and then moved to compel arbitration.