Construction Industry, Construction Law

Is your Arbitrator too busy?

by Martin Harman

In the autumn of this year I had the dubious pleasure of celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the publication of the Terms of Reference in an administered arbitration, which is still lumbering towards its own uncertain conclusion. At the time of our appointment as lawyers for one of the parties, which was shortly after the issue of the Terms of Reference, I toyed with the idea of proposing to my client a fixed fee for taking the case to conclusion. It seemed to me that this was quite a “cutting edge” concept at the time and I thought to myself that whilst the risk of such a course of action taken at the outset of hostilities could be very high, I mused that following close of pleadings and the crystallisation of the issues in dispute within the Terms of Reference, the task of assessing the likely future costs would not be beyond the whit of the reasonably experienced lawyer. I therefore felt that the risk of taking a bath on the fixed fee would not be that great. However, some little voice within me clearly counselled caution and as a result I did not make that proposal. Whilst this has saved me from a personal embarrassment and possible lynching by my partners, nevertheless my client has suffered because the case has taken a course which nobody could have predicted at the time when the Terms of Reference were agreed.

Construction Industry, Construction Law

Arbitrator Disclosures – Now Everyone Gets to Play

by Andrew Ness

U.S. courts in recent years have imposed stricter obligations on individuals sitting as arbitrators to disclose to the parties fully any facts or circumstances that may give rise to doubts about their impartiality or independence. As a result, the arbitrators’ mantra has become “disclose, disclose, disclose.” Indeed, it has become fairly common in arbitrations under U.S. law to see arbitrators making continual disclosures throughout the arbitral process as to every minor event that could possibly be seen as questionable – such as receiving a phone call from an old college friend who happens to be a partner at the same large firm as is representing one of the parties, even though the old friend is in a different city and different practice area entirely, and has no connection whatever to the pending arbitration. Under a recent change in American Arbitration Association (AAA) Construction Industry Rules, the parties and their counsel now get to play the disclosure game as well.

Construction Industry, Construction Law

Flexible Arbitration Filing Fees Introduced by AAA

by Andrew Ness

While arbitration is often touted as being a less expensive alternative to litigation, the initial cost of initiating arbitration has always been considerably more expensive than filing in court. Typical filing fee in a U.S. court is a few hundred dollars, while administering authorities typically have filing fees in the thousands of dollars. The American Arbitration Association (AAA), self-described as “world’s leading provider of conflict management and dispute resolution services,” is known for its high filing fees that get progressively greater as the amount in dispute rises. But the AAA will now be providing claimants some relief on that front.

Construction Law

Arbitration and civil procedure

by Dennis Brand

I think it is fair to say that occasionally some thought is given as to enforcement of the arbitration award, but rarely if any real thought is given to the jurisdiction of the local courts, either as to any challenge to an arbitration award or its enforcement.

Unlike many jurisdictions, the UAE does not have an arbitration law; in 2008, a draft arbitration law was in circulation, but as of today it is still in draft form. …

Construction Law

‘Swift’ arbitration is key

‘Swift’ arbitration is key
by Dr Chandana Jayalath
Construction contracts often include ‘keep working provisions’ for the parties to perform their obligations, despite the existence of a dispute. The contract may expressly forbid the contractor’s right to suspend work or terminate the contract, although inconsistent with the local law.
For example, under English law, there is a statutory right to suspend work for non-payment, which can not be excluded by contract.
Also, the employer may have the right to require a contractor to proceed with variations despite the time and cost consequences, not having been agreed in advance. In a fixed lump sum contract, the contractor may lodge a claim for variation, but the employer might deny it upfront on the basis of ‘lump sum’ or pay half of the cost pending evaluation at a later stage. The engineer may ask the contractor to go ahead with the rates he deems suitable whenever the contractor has no option, because of his obligation to complete works on time.
Although the contractor is supposedly responsible for quantity errors, in any typical lump sum contract where the quantities are said to be actual and correct, he will purposely keep silent in a windfall such as overestimated quantities that bring him money for nothingAlthough the contract expressly says no re-measurement is possible, the losing party may bring out this case and attempt to interpret the function of re-measurement as the ‘standard practice’.
There is usually a term implied to the effect that the client will not prevent the contractor from carrying out work in accordance with the terms of the contract, which is sometimes referred to as the prevention principle. In the UK case of Peak Construction (Liverpool) Ltd v McKinney Foundations Ltd (1970), some defective work was discovered before practical completion had been achieved.
The client was responsible for long delays owing to failure to approve a scheme of remedial works. A dispute arose concerning the contractor’s entitlement to an extension of time. Unfortunately, there was no specific provision for an extension of time when the contractor is delayed by the client, which is a fatal shortcoming in the contract. Another aspect is that many contracts do not have a mechanism to compensate the loss behind unprecedented price escalation in the Gulf region. This is where swift solutions are required to minimise potential losses suffered by parties, instead of allowing ‘loss to prevail where it lies’, particularly when contracts are silent.
Perhaps some claims are indeed necessary and the provision for making claims is essential in order to accommodate unavoidable changes, for example by granting justifiable extensions without invalidating the contract. However, problems arise when the provision is abused, for example by contractors who allegedly tender at low prices with the objective of profiting from their claims. For example, the government sector has now been bombarded by claims more than ever before.
Claims specialists have been busy with compiling claims for work suspended in recession. On the other hand, clients who attempt to aggressively suppress legitimate claims may provoke exaggerated, unjustified or even frivolous claims with the help of their in-house experts. Needless to say, the vicious circles generated by such exaggerated actions and reactions definitely add to the avoidable costs of construction.
The author therefore strongly believes in a speedy, flexible and a fair process, indeed a gentlemanly way to resolve disputes between gentlemen, as Alexis Mourre says, rather than too formal court lawyering. This is where ‘swift’ arbitration comes into play in the context of construction thus minimising the legal expenses for making and breaking claims and demoting the tendency towards interim awards and temporarily-binding decisions.

by Dr Chandana Jayalath

Construction contracts often include ‘keep working provisions’ for the parties to perform their obligations, despite the existence of a dispute. The contract may expressly forbid the contractor’s right to suspend work or terminate the contract, although inconsistent with the local law. …

Construction Law

Disputes in Dubai: more to come?

Dubai has recently seen record numbers of construction-related court cases and arbitrations and its arbitral institutions should now prepare for a second wave before the year-end, writes HENRY QUINLAN*.
DUBAI has not escaped the widespread effects of the global economic downturn, which has had a wide impact on the construction sector, largely due to the enormous number and scope of projects in the emirate.
Liquidity has been one of the main casualties of the downturn which, together with falling property values, has put both developers and contractors under significant financial pressure. …

Construction Law

Solving multi-party disputes

Solving multi-party disputes
This article addresses the advantages of multi-party arbitration and the difficulties that can arise, while providing guidance in drafting dispute resolution clauses.
CONSTRUCTION projects involving multi-national parties, multi-layered legal obligations, consortia and other joint relationships are common in the UAE.
In such multi-party transactions, it is imperative that parties consider at the outset whether related disputes between them can be resolved in the same forum and at the same time.
This is particularly important where parties elect to resolve their disputes by arbitration (which is often the case in transactions of this nature).
Advantages of arbitration
There are two principal advantages of multi-party arbitration:
• It is significantly more efficient for related disputes between multiple parties to be heard together, in the same forum and with the same applicable laws; and
• Multi-party arbitration reduces the risk of conflicting decisions on issues of law and/or fact and thus preserves two of the main objectives of arbitration – finality and certainty.
Difficulties in achieving arbitration
Multi-party arbitration, however, is not a straightforward matter. Some of the difficulties that can arise are outlined below.
Arbitration is a creature of contract: It has its basis in the law of contract. Parties can only arbitrate if they agree to do so, either by including an express agreement to arbitrate in the contract that governs their relationship, or by agreeing to arbitrate as and when any dispute arises.
Given that parties may be unwilling to reach agreement on how their dispute is to be resolved once they are in dispute, there is a benefit to agreeing to arbitrate in the initial contract documents. This is particularly important in a multi-party context, where the consent of more than two parties will be required.
The procedural law (or ‘seat’) of the arbitration: Few jurisdictions make provision in their arbitration laws for the joinder and/or consolidation of disputes in arbitration.
The UAE does not at present have a stand-alone federal arbitration law(i). While the UAE Ministry of Economy published draft federal arbitration legislation in February 2008, it is currently uncertain as to whether (and if so, when) it will be enacted. Neither the existing law, nor the draft arbitration legislation currently provides for multi-party arbitration.
The Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) arbitration law makes only limited provision for the appointment of a tribunal in a multi-party context(ii).
In most jurisdictions (including the UAE), therefore, the procedural law of the arbitration will not fully address the issue of multi-party arbitration and parties will need to include appropriate express joinder and/or consolidation provisions in their contracts.
Arbitral rules: Multi-party arbitration may be ordered by an arbitral institution (or a tribunal appointed under an institution’s rules) where the parties agree that institutional rules will apply.
Article 22.1(h) of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Rules gives the tribunal power to join one or more third parties to an arbitration, on the application of a party. This power, however, is subject to the consent (in writing) of both the applicant and the relevant third party. Article 8 of the LCIA Rules provides a mechanism for the appointment of arbitrators where there are multiple parties. The same Rules apply where parties opt to require their disputes to be resolved in accordance with the DIFC-LCIA Rules.
Article 10 of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Rules allows multiple claimants and multiple respondents to jointly nominate an arbitrator for confirmation. If the claimants and/or the respondents cannot agree on a joint nomination then the ICC Court has jurisdiction under the rules to appoint each member of the arbitral tribunal and designate one member as chairman. Article 4(6) of the ICC Rules also provides a consolidation mechanism in relation to claims between the same parties. This, however, is a limited mechanism and once the terms of reference have been signed, is only available at the arbitral tribunal’s discretion.
Article 11 of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) Rules deals with the appointment of the tribunal where there are multiple parties in the same manner as the ICC Rules.
While the above rules do make some provision for multi-proceeding disputes, none of them deals with the situation where multiple related disputes under different contracts between different parties arise. The rules themselves, therefore, are no substitute for provisions drafted by experienced legal advisers recording the various parties’ consent to joinder and consolidation and dealing with other issues that may arise in the context of an individual construction project.
Key drafting considerations
While simplicity is important in any dispute resolution clause, brevity may well be difficult to achieve in a multi-party and/or multi-contract arbitration provision. The following three factors are of particular importance and ought to be considered even if they give rise to a longer clause:
• Where there are more than two parties to arbitration proceedings, individual selection of arbitrators by each party will invariably be impractical. Any unfairness in the selection process may also give rise to issues when it comes to enforcement of an award. As noted above, some of the institutional rules and the DIFC Law address this point already;
• Where several parties are involved in a project, it is impossible to predict which of those parties will become a party to a dispute. The arbitration provisions will accordingly need to make provision for both bilateral and multilateral arbitration;
• It is often not possible to ascertain when any given party may need to be involved in multi-party arbitration proceedings. Consideration, therefore, needs to be given to the timing of any joinder or the consolidation of proceedings.
Where a multi-party situation arises out of multiple contracts, the use of an “umbrella agreement” (incorporated by reference into each of the agreements relating to the project) may be the best way to obtain the necessary consent from all the potential parties to a multi-party arbitration.
(i) Its arbitration legislation is set out in three chapters of the UAE Civil Procedure Code (Federal Law No 11 of 1992).
(ii) Article 17(3)(c) of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Arbitration Law (DIFC Law No1 of 2008) provides that where an arbitration agreement entitles each party to nominate an arbitrator but there are more than two parties to the dispute (and such parties have not agreed in writing that they represent two sides for the purposes of forming the arbitral tribunal) then the DIFC Court of First Instance shall appoint the arbitral tribunal without regard to any party’s nomination.
Gulf Construction


This article addresses the advantages of multi-party arbitration and the difficulties that can arise, while providing guidance in drafting dispute resolution clauses.

CONSTRUCTION projects involving multi-national parties, multi-layered legal obligations, consortia and other joint relationships are common in the UAE.

Contract Administration

Quantity clause needs update

by Chris Larkin

The UAE has undergone dramatic changes in recent years and the building boom has led to increasingly sophisticated methods of procuring construction work. The speed of these changes has made it difficult for the legal framework to keep up. As a result, some provisions of UAE law can appear outdated and even in conflict with modern forms of contract. …

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