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How to Navigate Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation with Government Contracts

Construction dispute claims can be difficult with any project. But when you are working on a contract with the federal government, it can become even more tricky because you are required by statute and contract to resolve any and all disputes under the Contract Disputes Act. So, what does that mean for the arbitration, mediation, or litigation options when dealing with a government dispute? 

In this brief article, a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney with Cotney Construction Law shares how the Contract Disputes Act can affect you, how to handle the different types of conflict resolution, and ways to protect your business if you have a dispute or non-payment with the government. 

What Is the Contract Disputes Act?

The Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (CDA or Act) was enacted by Congress to implement a comprehensive statutory scheme for the resolution of government contract claims.  The CDA provides a framework for asserting and handling claims by either the government or a contractor. All disputes under the CDA must be submitted to either the U.S Court of Federal Claims or to an administrative board of contract appeals. This means that, although you may have specified an Alternative Dispute Resolution technique clause in your contract, it may actually be void as subject to the CDA (depending on whether or not your project was owned federally or by the state. 

The CDA governs post-award monetary claims like breach of contract, non-monetary claims, like claims for time or interpretation issues regarding a specification, and claims arising out of an implied-in-fact contract between the federal government and a contractor. The CDA does not govern bid protest claims. One of our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys will be glad to help you understand if your dispute must be handled as part of the CDA or if traditional dispute resolution methods will apply. 

What Is Arbitration?

During the process of arbitration, the opposing parties will both present their case to a third party, known as the arbitrator. After the arbitrator listens to both sides of the case, taking into account the evidence presented, they will make a determination. The arbitrator’s decision is both private and binding unless the parties mutually agree to an advisory opinion.

This is different from traditional litigation settings because both parties select the third party arbitrator rather than being assigned a judge. Litigation also may involve a jury trial, whereas arbitration settles disputes with only the parties involved. It’s uncommon to resolve government contract cases in arbitration, as it is a more costly and private option; however, a Fort Lauderdale construction arbitration lawyer can help you determine if arbitration is an option in your unique case. 

Related: The Arbitration Process and the Construction Industry

Litigation and Mediation

Often, before beginning litigation, you will be required to go through mediation. Mediation is an ADR technique in which a third party will attempt to help you resolve the dispute outside of court. However, in the case of government contract and project disputes, this often ends in litigation. 

Litigation may end up with your dispute being brought to a court of law with a jury in a time-consuming process. Depending on who is bringing forth the dispute, you may find it more beneficial to settle the dispute during the mediation phase. No matter which way you go, it should be noted that your case will likely be part of the public record. A Fort Lauderdale construction mediation attorney will help explain your rights during the mediation process and can help you find ways to resolve the dispute without lengthy litigation — even with the government. 

Related: When Is Mediation Preferable to Litigation?

What to Do If You Have a Dispute Under a Government Contract

Fortunately, in the event that you do have a dispute under a government contract, you still have options for resolution. For example, you may be able to file a lien-like claim against a government-owned property. These are claims that function similarly to a lien offer the same protection in that the project owner has to pay you or otherwise resolve your lien before doing anything with the property. Government-projects are immune to the traditional mechanic’s liens since the government does not let any private citizen gain a stake in their projects. Because of this, liens cannot be filed against government projects.

You can also protect your business by hiring a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney with Cotney Construction Law. Your attorney will help you understand the subtle differences between settling a dispute publicly vs. privately and how to protect your assets if the government should be unhappy with the results of your work. 

Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more. 

If you would like to speak with a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.