The new AIA 201 2007 form departs with almost a century of American Institute of Architects (AIA) tradition of arbitrating disputes in American Arbitration Association (AAA) arbitration. Up until 2007, the exclusive dispute resolution process under AIA documents was AAA arbitration. The AIA A-201 General Conditions, instead of making AAA arbitration mandatory, now gives contractors and owners a choice as to what dispute resolution process they wish to employ. The same choice is provided in the AGC ConsensusDOCs. In a recent advertising campaign, AAA is urging construction industry participants to continue to select AAA arbitration as their dispute resolution mechanism.
AAA points out that choice is good, but that choice could put projects and businesses at risk for the following reasons:
- 1. “You could end up in litigation, where the average case gets bogged down for two years before getting to trial, nevermind resolution.
- 2. Without AAA arbitration, your client’s construction case won’t be resolved in the AAA’s median timeframe of 10 months from filing to award.
- 3. If you end up in litigation, or choose another ADR provider, you could get a judge or neutral or neutral who knows little – or nothing – about construction issues.
- 4. With litigation or another ADR provider, you probably won’t get the expertise of an AAA arbitrator who is also an architect, engineer or builder.
- 5. You could pay through the nose for hidden administrative fees when you choose a non-administrator or a non-AAA arbitration.
- 6. You won’t have access to AAA tools and resources that help you customize all-important dispute resolution contract clauses.
- 7. You run the risk of not getting an ADR provider that will offer you support, every step of the way, whether you file on-line or conventionally.”
Finally, AAA concludes: “If you do choose AAA arbitration, disregard all of the above.”
The AIA and ConsensusDOCs departure from mandatory AAA dispute resolution has been in part due to AAA’s often criticized administrative process that in instances can rival the most technical of court procedures. Further, in recent years, AAA has struggled in attracting and keeping competent administrators who are able to keep cases moving despite the best efforts of well minded lawyers attempts to bog down the resolution. The bottom line is, the AAA remains the preeminent alternative dispute resolution organization which employs a cadre of even-handed and competent industry professionals as arbitrators. Parties are in good hands if they entrust their disputes to AAA for resolution.