South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Decision of Architect to Resolve Construction Dispute Stands But Is Not Arbitration
Description Idaho high court held that because the parties to a contract followed the provisions of the contract to resolve a dispute between the contractor and a homebuilder, by which the architect settled the dispute, the decision would stand. While the procedure followed the terms of the contract, it was not arbitration, which requires a neutral third party.
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Arbitration; Award; Contract; Architect
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Martel contracted with Bulotti to build an addition to her home. Their contract was a standard American Institute of Architects (AIA) form. It provides for dispute resolution by the project architect for decision as "final and binding." Such decision, the contract stated was "final but subject to arbitration." Either party could demand arbitration by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) within 30 days. Martel and Bulotti submitted their dispute over Bulotti's performance to the architect. He awarded Martel $11,595 in damages, noting that the decision was final but could be sent to arbitration within 30 days. Bulotti demanded arbitration to the architect, but did not inform Martel or the AAA. Martel moved for court enforcement of the architect's decision; Bulotti objected. The district court confirmed the architect's decision as final. Bulotti appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The decision of the architect is not an arbitration award; the architect is not a neutral party. Hence, the court need not uphold the decision of the architect, since it was not by an extrajudicial arbiter. However, the parties followed the procedure set out by the contract and Bulotti failed to follow the procedure required to force arbitration with the AAA. The decision by the architect was final under the contract. Hence, Bulotti lost his opportunity to go to arbitration and the decision stands.

Citation Martel v. Bulotti, --- P.3d --- (2003 WL 174191, Sup. Ct., Idaho, 2003)

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