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AIA dispute resolution revisions raise questions

Contracts developed by the American Institute of Architects often serves as a foundation for agreements between parties on a construction project in Missouri. Every 10 years, the organization revises documents, and it has added language to documents A101, B101 and A201 that is raising new questions and concerns.

Although owners, contractors and architects want to focus on success when creating a deal, careful consideration of dispute resolution processes remains necessary. The new version of A201 General Conditions document includes some important changes. Claims now may clearly include a party's request to alter contract time. A change to contract time must adhere to specific timing and notice deadlines. A second change states that an owner does not necessarily have to make a claim for liquidated damages if a delay occurs. The contract addresses liquidated damages in other section, but, if the owner does not make a claim, then the contractor might not realize the need to ask for a time extension. This inaction could cause a contractor to miss a deadline for preparing a defense to claims for damages.

Some industry players had perhaps expected the revisions to address the arbitration provisions. Lately, parties have leaned toward litigation instead of arbitration. One cause of this problem could be that the contract does not compel arbitration to progress in a timely manner, which could make it as costly as the pursuit of a lawsuit.

Parties using these contracts as guidelines for their agreements could negotiate alterations that create more desirable dispute resolution terms. An attorney familiar with construction litigation could provide guidance at the negotiation stage. A person managing a project already involved in a dispute regarding issues like subcontractors, payments or construction defects could consult an attorney about how to proceed with a claim for damages.

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Our condo association was faced with monumental construction issues thanks to the original developer of our complex. We were cash poor and in no position to get legal representation without a contingency fee arrangement. Luckily for us, Scott Long and Burke Robinson were willing to take us on as clients. Their work ethic, professionalism and knowledge of condominium construction served our association very well. Any association would be well served in hiring these gentlemen to represent them.

Board of Directors - Plaza Gardens on the Lake Condominium Owners’ Association Lake of the Ozarks, MO

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