It is not uncommon that a general contractor’s subcontract will include an arbitration provision. Or it will allow the general contractor to select binding arbitration as the method to resolve disputes at the general contractor’s SOLE OPTION. A general contractor’s subcontract should absolutely give the general contractor this important right. (Keep this in mind when drafting dispute resolution provisions for a general contractor.)
It is also not uncommon for a subcontractor the sue a general contractor’s payment bond surety, and NOT the general contractor. One reason to do this is to create an argument to avoid the dispute resolution provision in the subcontract. (Another reason is to avoid any pay-if-paid defense.) When this occurs, a general contractor may still want to arbitrate the subcontractor’s payment bond dispute and a way to do so is for the general intervene in the lawsuit and move to compel arbitration. Sometimes, it is even practical for the general contractor to immediately initiate the arbitration process against the subcontractor, particularly if the general contractor wants to assert a counterclaim, so that the motion to compel is supported by the formal demand for arbitration (and filed with the American Arbitration Association or other body administering the arbitration). I have done this on a number of occasions.