Incidental matters in technical and legal disputes

Arbitration News – Supreme Court clarifies incidental matters in technical and legal disputes

(Article by Dr. A. Tsavdaridis, published in the Arbitration & ADR Newsletter of the ILO on July 14, 2016)

Domestic arbitrators sitting under the institutional arbitration rules of the Technical Chamber of
Greece have jurisdiction to hear only technical disputes (including disputes on the fees of designers)
and not legal disputes. However, legal disputes of an incidental nature to the main technical dispute
can be heard.

A dispute arose out of an agreement for design and construction of a private hospital. The dispute
related to the fees of the contractor (the owner paid only part of its fees) and various breaches of the
agreement which influenced the demand for fees, as well as a limitation of action issue. The
agreement provided for domestic arbitration under the institutional arbitration rules of the
Technical Chamber of Greece.
The contractor initiated arbitration requesting the unpaid fees and the arbitral tribunal partly
accepted its request.
The owner sought to set aside the award before the Athens Court of Appeal, which upheld the
petition and annulled the award. The court held that the dispute was of a legal and not a technical
nature and thus fell outside the jurisdiction of a tribunal sitting under the arbitration rules of the
Technical Chamber.(1)
The contractor appealed before the Supreme Court.

The court held that the dispute over the contractor’s fee was of a technical nature according to the
legal provisions establishing the institutional arbitration of the Technical Chamber of Greece and
providing that only disputes of a technical nature may validly be referred to such arbitration.(2)
The special scientific knowledge and experience of the members of the Technical Chamber were
considered essential for determining the contractor’s fee; the arbitrators based their determinations
on assessments of the designs from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives.
The court also held that while some legal issues did not require technical knowledge (eg, the breach
of contract and limitation of action), they nevertheless fell under the jurisdiction of the tribunal and
were incidental matters in relation to the main technical issue. The dispute was therefore
characterised as being of a technical nature.

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