Houston Construction Arbitration Lawyer
Experienced Construction Law Attorneys Serving Texas
Private arbitration has been used for many years to resolve construction disputes in lieu of the civil court system. While many in the construction industry embrace this form of dispute resolution for being a cost-effective alternative to litigation, the stakes of any matter being handled before an arbitrator are just as high. Because there are also limited appeals to an arbitrator’s binding decision, the process is more or less a one-shot deal – making it critical for parties involved to get it right the first time around.
Over 30+ years, we have leveraged decades of collective experience and a thriving business law practice to successfully represent contractors, subcontractors, property owners, developers, municipal utility districts, and other professionals involved in construction projects across Texas. Our depth of experience makes us formidable opponents in litigation, and skilled advocates capable of protecting our clients’ rights and interests in arbitration, as well as mediation.
Our Houston-based construction lawyers are successful litigators and proven counsel in arbitration and mediation. We are more than lawyers; we are problem solvers. Call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online today to discuss a potential case.
Understanding the Stakes in Arbitration
Today, many construction contracts include binding arbitration agreements, which require parties to resolve disputes through private arbitration rather than civil courts.
These disputes, among others, can include:
- Breach of contract (including material and anticipatory breaches)
- Theft of trade secrets
- Deceptive trade practices
- Insurance disputes
- Employment disputes
Arbitration is often used in construction contracts for its potential benefits, which include cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and confidentiality. It can also allow parties to select a private arbitrator with experience and industry knowledge that makes them more qualified to hear construction disputes, as the unique nature of construction contracts, industry standards, and technical concepts can be difficult for juries or judges to grasp. An experienced arbitrator increases the likelihood of a more informed resolution and can help avoid the wild or unpredictable results parties fear when they place their matters in the hands of laymen.
While arbitration is attractive for providing a speedier resolution than litigation, that efficiency is driven in part by the lack of appeal rights inherent to the process. Arbitration decisions and awards, if not satisfied immediately, can be swiftly turned into court judgement and executed upon by the prevailing party – with few opportunities to have courts review awards for errors.
The finality of arbitration results, as well as the need to move quickly and effectively during the process, make for stakes that are as high if not higher than those in litigation. While it is a process that creates opportunity for positive outcomes, construction arbitration demands the attention of skilled attorneys with experience in this form of dispute resolution, construction law, and the industry.
Navigating Arbitration: Personalized Guidance
The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is the body responsible for developing the policies and procedures that govern arbitration in the United States. Because of the popularity of arbitration clauses in many construction contracts today, the AAA has set forth specific guidelines for the resolution of construction-related disputes.
There are four main ways in which construction disputes can be handled and resolved:
- Regular Track Procedures – This can be considered the "standard" method of arbitration when none of the below methods are applied. Regular track procedure allows for administrative conferences, party input during the development of proposed arbitrator lists, and choices in how awards will be structured.
- Document Submission – Some disputes can be resolved without in-person meetings. When feasible, resolution through document submission can be facilitated regardless of the size or complexity of the underlying dispute.
- Fast Track Procedures – One thing all parties can agree on is the quicker the resolution of a dispute, the better. In situations where no claim or counterclaim exceeds $75,000, parties can opt for this method. Speed and efficiency are emphasized, with a 45-day "time standard" for completing all hearings, an expedited process for selecting an arbitrator, and a maximum 14-day period between a hearing and an award decision.
- Procedures for Large, Complex Construction Disputes – Not every dispute can be resolved on an expedited timeline. In cases where claims or counterclaims exceed $1 million, special procedures are put into place to ensure a fair result. Features of this process include a panel of neutrals (instead of a single arbitrator) and a mandatory preliminary hearing. Even preliminary matters, such as choosing the arbitration procedure to be used in a case, require experience. Knowing how each type of arbitration plays out in the real world is vital to making informed, valuable decisions. An effective lawyer and arbitration counsel can determine when a particular course of action is in a client's best interest; when there are multiple options available, we can advocate for the procedure most conducive to helping our clients achieve a favorable result.
Arbitration Provisions: Drafting, Reviewing & Executing Construction Contracts
Because a large part of our construction law practice focuses on assisting clients in complex contractual matters, we provide services that help clients make informed decisions about whether or not they should enter into or devise contracts with arbitration provisions long before any foreseeable dispute arises. This is a case-by-case decision which requires thorough evaluation of the nature of the contract and project-specific concerns. We help clients assess the risks of arbitration during contract drafting, review, and negotiation to maximize potential benefits.
No Second Chances: Trust Experienced Counsel
Because the presentation of your case forms the basis of an arbitrator’s final decision, every stage of arbitration matters. This is why we devote significant resources to preparation, and why we are driven to succeed at every step. Many of the same skills that make us invaluable litigators (gathering evidence, anticipating the other side’s arguments, etc.) also make us skilled counsel in arbitration proceedings.
Whether we ultimately resolve a dispute through document submission or require multiple hearings before a panel of arbitrators, our goal remains the same: Present the stronger case and allow our client to prevail.
While many construction contracts specify arbitration in the event of a dispute, others allow for mediation of disagreements. Our attorneys at Hendershot Cowart, P.C. are experienced in all forms of dispute resolution in Texas, including mediation. We are proud to be a full-service firm meeting the legal needs of all professionals of the building trades.
To learn how our arbitration attorneys can help bring your construction dispute to a successful resolution, call (713) 909-7323.