Q: I filed a complaint with the CSLB against a Contractor for shoddy work and breach of contract and it has been assigned
to mandatory, binding arbitration.
The Contractor is stating I still owe him the balance on the contract so he will not fix any issues until that is paid. The CSLB states that the same issues should not be filed in a civil suit but the Contractor has now filed a civil suit in Superior Court for non payment / breach of contract even though this issue will be decided in the mandatory arbitration. How do I answer the civil suit?
A: CSLB Claim vs. Civil Suit: Your first inquiry is whether the construction contract has Arbitration as a dispute mechanism - if it does, within 30 days of service of the Civil Suit you should file a "Motion to Stay" the civil suit grounded on the argument that the parties are contractually bound to arbitrate. The Court will be compelled to grant the stay of the action and order the parties to arbitrate pursuant to the contract. If you do not have a contractual arbitration clause, and if its accurate that BOTH you and the contractor have committed to the CSLB's mandatory arbitration procedures then (a) get a copy of the arbitration stipulation from the CSLB signed by both parties, and (b) file the same type of Motion to Stay before the civil court judge. This second process isn't as assured to be granted by the Court but the judge will have discretion to grant the stay and order the parties to arbitrate before the CSLB. These motions are challenging and require your filing the first appearance fee, the motion fee, and (if using counsel) a significant attorney retainer. Best wishes in the decision-making. JAMES GREER
A: It depends. Does the contract with the contractor provide that all disputes be resolved by binding arbitration? Who referred you to binding arbitration? You can file a motion to strike (or demurrer to) the Superior Court complaint based on the binding arbitration provision in the contract, but first you must meet and confer with the contractor's counsel (or him if he's representing himself. You need to inform him of the arbitration provision and tell him the court will strike the complaint or dismiss it because of that arbitration agreement, and give him the opportunity to withdraw/dismiss the complaint himself.
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