The AIA contract forms include three options for dispute resolution: arbitration, litigation, and “other.” A Connecticut Superior Court judge has concluded that parties who chose “other” by specifying “Architect” were in fact choosing arbitration by the project architect. Thus, when the contractor didn’t file a motion to vacate the architect’s decision in favor of the homeowners, the contractor failed to take a necessary step to challenge the architect’s decision and that decision was confirmed. The case is Digiorgio v. Guedes, 2014 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2611 (Oct. 23, 2014).
The court’s decision is brief and provides little explanation. It notes that the parties marked the A101 form for the third dispute resolution option, inserting the word “Architect.” And the court notes that the contract article is entitled “Binding Dispute Resolution.” Then, the court reasons that a binding dispute resolution process, other than litigation, means arbitration. Applying the statutory standards for confirming or vacating an arbitration award, the contractor’s effort to challenge the architect’s decision was untimely, and so the architect’s decision was confirmed as an arbitration award. One statement in the court’s decision is telling: “Technical precision in making a submission is not required and submissions are given a liberal construction in furtherance of the policy of deciding disputes by arbitration.”
This is a trial court decision and is not considered to be official precedent. But the judge makes a valid point: if it is a binding dispute resolution process, and is not litigation, then it is to be treated as arbitration.