A Dispute Board (“DB”) is defined as a standing body consisting of one, three or more independent persons who are chosen by the parties to assist them upon the signature or commencement of performance of a mid- or long-term contract, like construction contracts and contracts for works. The DB members help the parties avoid or overcome any disagreements or disputes that arise during the implementation of the contract and assist the parties in resolving their differences at an early stage, or even before they arise; through creating an atmosphere of communication between them. This is an obvious benefit that greatly minimizes costs, especially litigation and arbitration fees, and reduces loss of productive time.
In other words, a DB may operate on an on-going basis during the span of any long-term project and facilitate its delivery by avoiding delays and unnecessary costs.
The significant differences between the DB and most other alternative dispute resolution techniques is that:
i) The DB is appointed at the commencement of a project before any disputes arise and before any events have occurred which would lead to any dispute, and by undertaking regular visits to the site it is actively involved throughout the project (and possibly any agreed period thereafter).
ii) The DB is familiar with the terms of the contract, the history of the project and persons involved in its implementation. It has ongoing factual, technical and legal knowledge of the project and may deal efficiently with any type of dispute that may arise.
iii) The DB is able to intervene early and can propose solutions before the parties’ positions have solidified and sometimes even before the parties themselves have realized that they are heading towards a problem.
iv) Other methods of ADR (such as arbitration, meditation, conciliation and expert determination) are “one-shot” procedures that cease to operate and are only implemented after a dispute has arisen, unlike the DB.
v) In contrast to other methods of dispute resolution that may be agreed upon in the construction industry, a DB acts in ‘real-time’ as compared to dealing with disputes which occurred in the far distant past such as in court proceedings and arbitration.