Arbitration vs. Litigation in Church Disputes

Recent case with a church and an architect illustrates main aspects of arbitration.

A church signed a contract with an architect for the design and construction of an expansion project. The contract was the standard American Institute of Architects form, which requires all disputes to be resolved by arbitration in accordance with the Construction Industry Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) unless the parties mutually agree otherwise. The architect filed a demand for arbitration in which he claimed $50,000 of unpaid fees. The church filed a counter-claim for $500,000. An arbitrator awarded the church $12,000, and the architect appealed this decision on several grounds, including the arbitrator’s bias. A court rejected all of the architect’s claims, and upheld the arbitration award. This case illustrates a couple of important points: (1) Architects contracts contain a binding arbitration clause, requiring all disputes to be resolved pursuant to specified rules. A church that has a dispute with an architect will be compelled to resolve the dispute through arbitration instead of litigation. (2) Arbitration awards ordinarily will not be overturned by the courts. (3) Churches wanting arbitration conducted pursuant to other rules must modify the contract to say so. Sanders v. Maple Springs Baptist Church, 787 A.2d 120 (D.C. App. 2002).

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay