September 06, 2019 Articles

It’s Complicated: Mediating Multiparty Construction Disputes

The author discusses challenges arising in the mediation of construction disputes involving numerous parties, and shares approaches a mediator should consider to enhance the prospects of successful resolution.

by Scott St. Marie

A frequent hallmark of construction dispute mediations is the presence of several parties with layered exposure or entitlement on the claims at issue. Most typical is probably the owner-general contractor-subcontractor(s) scenario, with two, three, or four parties directly involved.

But what about the construction mediation where the number of parties is well beyond the norm? Like 12 parties? Or 17? Or 25? What special factors deserve consideration when the parties are truly numerous?

The tendency for multiparty involvement in construction mediation stems from the nature of the tiered relationships on even the most straightforward construction projects, with an owner/developer, general contractor/construction manager, and then layers of trades often occupying two or more contractual tiers below that. This does not even begin to account for the design side of the project equation, which usually has multiple design specialties occupying still more tiers.

This article discusses some of the special issues that attend construction mediations with numerous parties, and suggests some methods that the mediator can use to cut through obstacles and reach the goal of a negotiated resolution.

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