As of October 1, 2019, the Interim Adjudication regime has come into effect. Given that a few months have now passed since implementation, an important question needs to be asked: how does the process actually work?
ADR Chambers, and specifically the Ontario Dispute Adjudication for Construction Contracts (“ODACC”), was named as the Authorized Nominating Authority to oversee the adjudication process for construction disputes.
Once a party has decided to bring a claim under the Interim Adjudication regime, the party must first go to ODACC’s website (odacc.ca). The website provides information on the process itself and serves as the training portal for prospective adjudicators seeking certification. Prior to completing the claim form and initiating the process, all claimants must create an account with ODACC. The emphasis on online claims is consistent with the overall theme of the regime, which is aimed at providing a quick and cost-effective alternative to traditional litigation. The Notice of Adjudication claim form may be completed online, and claimants are asked to provide information about the parties and the nature of the dispute. Again, simplicity of procedure is given precedence as the description of the dispute is limited to 250 words.
Following the submission of a claim on ODACC’s website, ODACC sends a notification email to the Respondent advising them of the claim. The Respondent prepares their response, and an adjudicator is selected. The adjudicator will determine which “type” of hearing is appropriate for each particular dispute. The adjudicator will select one of four pre-designed adjudication processes based on the value of the relief sought by the claimant. The major differences between the four pre-designed processes is how evidence will be presented, how much evidence can be exchanged and the cost of the hearing. For example, the simplest process is limited to only two pages of written argument and costs $800 (plus HST) in adjudicator fees. The most “complicated” of the four pre-designed processes limits parties to 10 pages of written argument, 25 pages of supporting evidence and 30 minutes of oral argument to be conducted by teleconference or video conference with a fee of $3,000 (plus HST). Adjudicators also have the power to create a custom process, should it be necessary. In any event, even at its most complicated, the process is very simplified in comparison to traditional litigation. Time will tell whether this simplified adjudication regime will allow parties a fair opportunity to effectively communicate their position.