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Contract Arbitration for Grand Canyon Skywalk

Friday, August, 31, 2012

David Jin just got a $28.5 million award from a contract arbitration dispute with the Hualapai tribe.


What kind of dispute nets a single individual a $28.5 million arbitration award from an Native American tribe? And how does it involve the Grand Canyon? Read on and find out.

Background of The Grand Canyon Skywalk Arbitration


The conflict is over a tourist attraction called the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass floor structure that allows tourists to walk directly “into” the grand canyon and get a bird's-eye view, literally, without the expense of a helicopter ride.


David Jin partnered with the Hualapai tribe to create the attraction, putting $30 million into its construction. He is taking the tribe to task with the claim that they have breached the contract and owe management fees (among other things).

Why the Hualapai Tribe Claims Contract Arbitration Doesn't Matter


The tribe is currently trying to cut Jin out of the contract, claiming eminent domain in the matter.


Eminent domain is a concept usually used by the U.S. government for seizing citizen's land when it would be important to public utilities or other public functions. The concept also involves paying a fair price for the property seized, an idea the tribe says it has entertained.


The tribe's business entity said it would not have to pay Jin the entire $28.5 million, however, even should he take the case to federal court and win. They claim that they are granted sovereign immunity that can only be waived under certain circumstances.

Will the Legal Arbitration be Taken to Court?


The contract between Jin and the Hualapai tribe has a provision that the two parties would engage in arbitration in the event of any disputes. The tribe is now trying to pull Jin out of the contract altogether.


The tribe and Jin both participated in finding the right person to conduct the legal arbitration. It was found that the tribe breached the contract by not making its financial records (in connection with the Skywalk) available to Jin, not paying Jin the agreed-upon management fees, and not paying Skywalk's business expenses.


The tribe countered that Jin did not finish construction of a visitor's center, nor pay the utilities, which put him in violation of the contract. Witnesses did however testify that the responsibility for the utilities were always with the Hualapai.


While the arbitration expert did award Jin eight figures in damages, he refused to award several more millions of dollars Jin was claiming in defamation from the tribe in newspapers and other venues.