Dispute Review Boards (DRB) are becoming more common with many states’ Departments of Transportation (DOT). A 2013 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) survey found that 18 state DOTs utilize DRBs and further research reveals that at least four other state DOTs use DRBs for their construction projects. Construction attorneys (and their clients) who fail to recognize and appreciate this trend likely will be left on the outside looking in as future DOT large-scale construction projects are bid and awarded.
DRBs generally consist of a panel of three independent neutrals who serve throughout a construction project in an effort to defuse disputes before they arise, or deflate and resolve disputes before they ruin an otherwise successful construction project. The cost of the neutrals typically is shared by the owner and contractor. Neutrals usually have at least 10 years of construction experience, and they are trained by the Dispute Review Board Foundation (DRBF) or by the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Any dispute first must be brought to the DRB for a decision; however, the DRB’s decisions generally are not binding. Feedback from DRB projects is almost universally positive. (For more information about DRBs generally, the authors refer readers to Deborah Bovarnick Mastin, Esq.’s “Dispute Review Boards to the Rescue” article found in the November 2013 ABA Construction Forum Newsletter, Vol. 15 No. 4.)