In Cont’l Homes of Tex., L.P. v. Perez, No. 04-21-00396-CV, 2022 Tex. App. LEXIS 7691, the Court of Appeals of Texas (Appellate Court) considered whether the lower court erred in refusing to enforce an arbitration clause in a construction contract between the parties. The Appellate Court considered the costs of the arbitration forum required by the contract in the context of the plaintiffs’ monthly household income. The court also compared the arbitration cost to the estimated cost of litigating the dispute. The court held that the arbitration clause was substantively unconscionable on the grounds that the arbitration costs were not affordable for the plaintiffs and not an “adequate and accessible substitute to litigation.” The Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s decision denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. Continue reading
In Bain v. Airoom, LLC, No. 1-21-001, 2022 Ill. App. LEXIS 241, the Appellate Court of Illinois (Appellate Court) considered whether the lower court erred in enforcing an arbitration clause in a construction contract between the parties and, as a result, dismissing the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The Appellate Court found that even if the arbitration clause was enforceable, the appropriate action would have been for the court to stay the lawsuit, as opposed to dismissing the case entirely. The Appellate Court then considered the language of the arbitration clause and found that several provisions were substantively unconscionable, which rendered the entire arbitration clause unenforceable. The Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s decision compelling arbitration and reinstated the plaintiff’s complaint. Continue reading
In Edifice Constr. Co., Inc. v. Arrow Insulation, Inc., No. 79407-8-1, 2020 Wash App. LEXIS 359, the Court of Appeals of Washington considered whether subcontractors could be bound by the arbitration clause in a contract between an owner and a general contractor. In determining that the subcontractors were not bound by the arbitration clause in the prime contract, the court found that the general contractor failed to meet its burden of showing that the subcontractors were on notice of the specific terms of the prime contract. Continue reading
While pursuing contractors and subcontractors separately can oftentimes be a strategic move in subrogation cases involving construction defects, attorneys must be aware that proceeding in a piecemeal fashion may result in claim preclusion in the later cases. In the case of Girolametti v. Michael Horton Assocs., 2019 Conn. LEXIS 172, 2019 WL 2559548, the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered whether the issuance of an arbitration decision involving the general contractor precluded subsequent claims against subcontractors who worked on the same project. The court held that, because the subcontractors were presumptively in privity with the general contractor for purposes of res judicata and there were no facts requiring the court to depart from that presumption, the doctrine of res judicata applied and precluded the plaintiff’s claims against the subcontractors. Continue reading
In Morse v. Fisher Asset Management, LLC, 2019 Pa. Super. 78, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania considered whether the plaintiff’s action was stayed when the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint after sustaining the defendants’ preliminary objections seeking enforcement of an arbitration clause in the contract at issue. The Superior Court—distinguishing between a defendant who files a motion to compel arbitration and a defendant who files preliminary objections based on an arbitration clause—held that, in the latter scenario, if the defendant’s preliminary objections are sustained, the statute of limitations is not tolled. This case establishes that, in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs seeking to defeat a challenge to a lawsuit based on a purported agreement to arbitrate need to pay close attention to the type of motion the defendant files to defeat the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Continue reading
Recent court decisions have signaled the courts’ proclivity to prefer arbitration over full-fledged litigation when provisions in construction contracts are called into question. While the courts recognize a party’s constitutional right to a jury trial, the courts also lean strongly towards resolving disputes via arbitration as a matter of public policy, especially if a construction contract carves out arbitration as an alternative to litigation. Continue reading
Special Arbitration, a long-existing, highly efficient and cost-effective venue for resolving workers’ compensation subrogation liens, is being challenged as an appropriate forum in which to resolve lien disputes. As a result, Special Arbitration may soon be an unavailable forum for workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers in some states.
In Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. v. R.G. Williams Construction, Inc., — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4311070 (Ga. App. July 16, 2015), the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the validity of a contract clause in a construction contract. In the contract, R.G. Williams Construction, Inc. (“Williams”), the general contractor, and Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. (“AFDC”) agreed to arbitrate any disputes related to the contract. In addition, Williams and AFDC expressly agreed “not to challenge the validity of the arbitration or the award.” The court, relying in part on analogous federal arbitration law, held that the clause – precluding judicial review of an arbitration award – altered Georgia’s statutory arbitration scheme, frustrated Georgia’s public policy and was void and unenforceable.