OUR SERVICES

Dispute Resolution
Civil Litigation
Construction Law

DISPUTE RESOLUTION

No one wants a dispute. Leave it to the pros to guide you to a resolution.

If there is disagreement about something, there are ways to resolve the dispute that can be much less stressful and achieve a more beneficial outcome. We can: employ strategic negotiation techniques to solve matters at an early stage; implement a trained unbiased mediator for more complex disputes; or involve a neutral third-party such as an Arbitrator to make a final, binding decision.

Our client was a contractor considering taking legal action for unpaid invoices and delay on a project against an owner. We filed a claim of lien to secure the client’s interests. Then, we opened up communication with the owner’s legal counsel, which allowed us to outline the claim and set out the basis for which our client claimed compensation. Letters, project back-up documents and phone calls were exchanged, and we were able to come to a negotiated settlement for unpaid invoices and the delay claim, even prior to filing legal pleadings in the Supreme Court. The outcome was great for our client, as it received fair compensation and avoided potentially significant costs in litigation.

Our client was a project developer that became involved in a dispute with its general contractor. There was a disagreement between them about the value of work performed, delays and deficiencies in the work. There were also a number of lien claims filed by the sub-contractors to the general contractor for unpaid amounts owing to them.

We were able to work with our client to sort out the value of the work performed, costs resulting from the delay, and costs expected to be incurred to address the deficiencies of the contractor. We opened up communication with the contractor and its sub-trades, and negotiated direct payments to the sub-trades where appropriate, to secure the release of their lien claims, and keep them working on the project to complete the remaining work. Then, we were able to negotiate a resolution with the contractor regarding the remaining aspects of the claim between them. The delay was minimized, and our client was able to clear the lien claims, get the deficient work remedied, and completed the sales of the project as anticipated.

With a well thought-out strategy, and confident negotiation skills, it is often possible to resolve matters at an early stage. Key skills of a dispute resolution professional in this stage, include attentive listening (both to what is being said, and conveyed without words), and effective communication. This is not a skill that is taught in law school, but is rather refined by (some) counsel over time. We excel in this area.

When a negotiated resolution is not possible, which can happen for a variety of reasons, the introduction of a neutral third party (mediator or arbitrator) is sometimes necessary.

Mediation is a process by which a trained, independent, unbiased third party (the “Mediator”) meets with the parties to assist with the negotiation process. They are trained in helping the parties break through a negotiation dead-lock, and to identify possible solutions that may not have been considered. Mediators are not decision-makers, and if there is no agreement, the discussions remain confidential and non-binding. However, if an agreement is reached, it will form the basis for an agreement between the parties, which is enforceable moving forward.

Mediators can assist the parties to the dispute on their own, or with the parties’ own legal counsel present. This is often advisable in more complex disputes, so that the parties can get independent legal advice on their positions as the mediation takes place. As a mediator is a neutral third party, they cannot give legal advice to either side. Once an agreement is tentatively reached, the mediator will advise the parties to each seek legal advice as to whether they should move forward with the agreement, as negotiated.

In 2020, Stephanie completed an 80+ hour mediation training course recognized by the Law Society of British Columbia and is now accepting assignments to act as a mediator in disputes. She also regularly acts as legal counsel to parties attending a mediation with an independent mediator.

An arbitrator is also a neutral third party to the dispute, but instead of facilitating negotiations between the parties, the arbitrator is hired to make a final, binding decision regarding the dispute – akin to a privately retained judge. In coming to a decision, the arbitrator will consider the facts, the evidence and will apply the proper law. Arbitrators are typically lawyers with specialized arbitration training, or are themselves, former judges. Decisions of an arbitrator may be enforced like a judgment obtained in court, and can (sometimes) be appealed.

Some benefits of arbitration include the following:

  • Choice of decision maker- choosing an arbitrator familiar in a particular area of the law can be a great advantage
  • Privacy – the process remains private, and outside of the public court system
  • Convenience – the arbitration can be scheduled according to the parties’ schedules and the arbitrator’s availability
  • Speed – the Court system is very slow. Arbitration can often be completed in a much faster timeframe
  • Flexibility – there are certain “Rules” of arbitration that apply, but these can sometimes be modified by agreement in advance between all parties or the direction of the arbitrator
  • Finality – the decision is final and enforceable with very limited avenues of appeal- allowing parties to move forward from the dispute

CIVIL LITIGATION

You’re not alone. Let us do the messy work.

Sometimes, disputes get messy. If a disagreement cannot be resolved through negotiation, mediation or arbitration, then parties must turn to the Courts for a binding decision to their legal dispute. While the vast majority of claims will settle prior to trial, there are many steps in the litigation that take place and bring parties closer to a settlement. Steps include filing legal claims in the Court, exchange of evidence, examinations under oath about the evidence, interim Court applications, exchanges of “formal offers” with cost consequences, and more. At the end of the day, trial is where some disputes are ultimately resolved.

Our client faced defending an action against it for breach of an agreement in the technology sector. A number of important steps were taken in the court action, and trial was approaching. Parties on both sides had become firmly entrenched in their positions, as there had been a long history between them. A mediation was scheduled to see if there was a possibility of resolving the action in advance of the trial. At mediation, with the assistance of the mediator and legal counsel, the parties were able to come to a unique arrangement that had not been previously considered and would never have been awarded at trial. Our client was extremely happy with the outcome, effectively defended the action against it, and saved a significant amount in avoiding trial expenses.

In a contentious dispute between partners, our client was able to obtain a mareva injunction to freeze company accounts and prevent unauthorized distribution of assets while the action progressed.

In a municipal dispute regarding zoning, through skilled negotiation, including legislative interpretation, and the (real) threat of impending litigation, our client was able to secure a favorable outcome to its zoning dispute.

While we always look for opportunities to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom, there are occasions when pursuing a claim in court is the best (or only) option.

Even the idea of litigation can be overwhelming, so we encourage new clients to give us a call to get to know us and discuss their legal matter. We offer a 30-minute complimentary, no-obligation consultation to give you an opportunity to share your challenge and for us both to determine if we feel Synthesis is the right fit. If you decide to proceed with us, we will help you to understand the options and risks, so that you feel well supported and in control of your case. If we are not the best fit, we will be glad to have had a chat, and we will undoubtedly be able to refer to you someone who is better suited to your particular needs.

Whether you require assistance to defend a claim that has been brought against you, or you need an advocate to pursue your matter in court, we have the skills and experience to help you succeed.

CONSTRUCTION LAW

Protect what you’ve worked so hard to build.

Whether your construction project is already underway and things are heating up on-site, or you are about to take on something new, our experienced advice in this area can help keep you on track to complete the project on time and on budget….and avoid the many potential legal pitfalls along the way.

Construction law is a complex and constantly evolving area of the law, made up of difficult to interpret legislation and myriad judicial decisions. Every project participant benefits from experienced legal advice to help make sense of it all and make sound legal and business decisions. Let us help protect what you’ve worked hard to build.

Our client was the general contractor on a project where one of its subcontractors failed to properly manage its scope of the work, and performed work negligently. This resulted in a number of lien claims being filed by its sub-subcontractors, and a substantial amount of re-work – meaning time and costs incurred by our client. To make matters worse, the subcontractor filed a grossly inflated lien claim against the project, and pursued this claim in the Supreme Court against our client. We navigated our client through this complex action – from obtaining an order for alternate security (to release the lien claims against the project), to filing an aggressive counterclaim, to numerous interim applications and some settlement agreements with some of the sub-trades. Ultimately, the grossly inflated lien claim was dismissed by the Court, resulting in a great victory for our client.

Our client was successful at trial against the personal guarantor of a project owner, in its claim for unpaid materials. Significant interest was awarded in the claim, in excess of the actual materials claim, as we were able to establish that a high level of interest applied to the contractual arrangement between them.

Our client was one of many subcontractors unpaid on a project by the general contractor. We filed a claim of lien to secure our client’s interests, and when that did not generate sufficient attention by the contractor or project owner, we commenced a claim in the Supreme Court. Relatively soon thereafter, we were able to negotiate a settlement with the project owner that was signed-off on by the general contractor, resulting in a very positive outcome for our client. We worked hard, and the time between negotiating the settlement terms and getting money into our client’s hands was very short.

Construction claims are complex, and there can be a lot at stake. Whether you are seeking advice on a new project, or if disagreements have arisen on-site, you do not want to engage a lawyer who only dabbles in this area of the law. Make sure that your team has a successful track record with complex contract negotiations, payment disputes, builders’ lien claims,  negligence actions, delay claims, holdback issues, or whatever your unique project or challenge requires.

Don’t overlook the importance of your legal team having strong relationships and connections in the industry – our clients have benefitted from our experience, industry knowledge and our respectful relationships with fellow counsel, industry participants, insurers, and financial firms to name a few.

Peace of mind & a clear path moving forward

BOOK AN APPOINTMENT

We offer a 30-minute complimentary, no-obligation consultation to give you an opportunity to share your challenge and for us both to determine if we feel Synthesis is the right fit. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Legal services are provided through our law corporation. Nothing on this webpage is legal advice for you, but we would welcome the opportunity to discuss further.