Disputes in the construction industry have historically lent themselves to the utilisation of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes. During the boom times of the late nineties and early noughties, parties to construction contracts focussed less on hard dollar contracts and strict legal claims, and more on relationship based contracting and dispute avoidance, such that reliance on more formal ADR fell away.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been deciding cases regarding arbitration at (for them) a furious pace recently, and the latest decision (Rent-A-Center West, Inc. v. Jackson, 2010 WL 2471058 (June 21, 2010)) reconfirms the Court’s continued strong support for enforcing arbitration agreements as written, even where this deprives the courts of any significant role in…

Arbitration has long been established as a method of dispute resolution in the Middle East. In recent times, with the enormous economic growth experienced in the region, and the UAE’s liberal approach to foreign investment, the provision for solving disputes by arbitration has become even more prominent in commercial contracts, aided in part by the fact that it is the favoured method of resolving disputes under many standard form construction contracts.

With reason, non-Americans tend to be wide-eyed at the extent to which U.S courts require affirmative disclosure of potentially relevant documents and facts – and at the cost these discovery procedures routinely entail. One change just announced, however, represents a bit of retrenchment that will make handling construction disputes in U.S. Federal courts a bit…

When forced to litigate in the U.S., many businesses – especially multinational ones – prefer to be in federal rather than state court. The U.S. Supreme Court just made it a bit easier to fulfill that desire. Most construction disputes are contract cases not involving federal law, so a federal court will only have jurisdiction…

The U.S. has been a staunch supporter of arbitration since 1925, when the U.S. Arbitration Act became law. The Arbitration Act makes arbitration agreements binding and simple to enforce, without significant exception. Rather suddenly, a substantial backlash against mandatory arbitration has appeared on the scene. One of the clearest indicators is the proposed Arbitration Fairness…

Contractors and suppliers operating abroad often conclude contracts with agents, consultants and other intermediaries who assist them in tender processes as well as in negotiating and performing contracts. Typically, these consultancy agreements provide that disputes are to be submitted to arbitration. Most disputes concern the consultants’ entitlement to a fee. In these disputes, the principal often argues that the contract was illegal under the applicable law. This notably occurred in two cases which led to two recent decisions of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court on applications to set aside or revise arbitral awards.

In the autumn of this year I had the dubious pleasure of celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the publication of the Terms of Reference in an administered arbitration, which is still lumbering towards its own uncertain conclusion. At the time of our appointment as lawyers for one of the parties, which was shortly after the issue of the Terms of Reference, I toyed with the idea of proposing to my client a fixed fee for taking the case to conclusion. It seemed to me that this was quite a “cutting edge” concept at the time and I thought to myself that whilst the risk of such a course of action taken at the outset of hostilities could be very high, I mused that following close of pleadings and the crystallisation of the issues in dispute within the Terms of Reference, the task of assessing the likely future costs would not be beyond the whit of the reasonably experienced lawyer. I therefore felt that the risk of taking a bath on the fixed fee would not be that great. However, some little voice within me clearly counselled caution and as a result I did not make that proposal. Whilst this has saved me from a personal embarrassment and possible lynching by my partners, nevertheless my client has suffered because the case has taken a course which nobody could have predicted at the time when the Terms of Reference were agreed.