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Master Service Agreement

What Are the Most Common Disputes and Risks With a Master Service Agreement?

In this blog, you will learn about MSAs and their most common risks, disputes, and benefits.

A Master Service Agreement (“MSA”) is a contract between two parties with an ongoing project or commercial connection that provides a flexible mechanism for finishing a project over time while making decisions. An MSA’s objective is to define the contractual relationship’s boundaries, develop a tool for completing the work that must be done, effectively keep the project on track and address any disputes that may emerge during the project’s course. The essential components of writing and negotiating MSA recommended practices for managers operating under an MSA, common conflicts that occur under this regime, and how to efficiently settle those issues are all covered in this white paper.

MSAs – Purpose

A master service agreement’s purpose is to speed up the contracting process. It should also make future contract negotiations easier. A service level agreement (SLA) is another name for a master service agreement (MSA). It clearly states:

  • Confidentiality: Both parties agree that no company secrets will be shared with third parties.
  • Business needs for delivery: The companies decide who will deliver what and when.
  • Disagreements: The MSA describes how the parties would address their differences.
  • Intellectual property rights: The parties decide how all patents and other intellectual property will be owned and regulated. In rare cases, the client will receive all of the IP addresses. In such cases, the vendor grants perpetual rights while preserving their intellectual property and patents.
  • Limitations of liability: In the event of a lawsuit, the MSA identifies who is responsible.
  • Payment terms: These terms outline the expected cost and the payment plan.
  • Resolution of Legal Dispute: The MSA Agreement specifies the location where a legal dispute will be resolved. Arbitration or a specific state or federal court could be used.
  • Warranties: The groups agree on the warranty’s scope and coverage.
  • Work standards: Each party determines what constitutes good work in this section of the MSA. Disputes frequently arise as a result of failure to meet work standards.

How Does Msa Work During Legal Concerns

Businesses use MSAs for two main reasons: indemnification and risk allocation. Indemnification is a term that refers to a manner in which one organization, or a party, protects the other from some current or potential losses. The indemnifying party is the party that undertakes to pay for any damages it or another party has caused or may cause in the future. They supply lawyers and pay the legal fees related to the litigation process.

Defend, release, and indemnify are the most common terms employed in the indemnification process. Defending refers to a situation in which one party pays for attorneys to protect the party at fault, releasing refers to a party not being sued for damages, and indemnity refers to paying for damages to a third party. To avoid making mistakes or simply signing a terrible contract, the best course of action is to employ a lawyer and use a master service agreement form.

Developing comprehensive measures to allocate risk is known as risk allocation. Before signing the MSA, all parties should thoroughly understand how the MSA will interact with other arrangements, notably insurance policies. They should also know how the law affects specific MSA clauses, such as those that outline the duty and risk that contractors may face in their workplace during their contract.

Make the mistake of treating a Master Service Agreement like a work order. Labor orders, unlike MSAs, are used to address individual jobs and projects while also specifying the work hours and payment amount. However, most of those terms are contained in a specific work order, which can be nullified if it clashes with the Master Service Agreement’s terms. You should have a lawyer there, especially if this is your first time negotiating a contract.

The Most Common Msa Disputes Involved

While an MSA is intended to alleviate legal worries during negotiations, problems arise. The following are the most common MSA disputes:

  • Employee injury or death: Unless such situations are specified in the MSA, the parties are likely to argue over who is to blame.
  • Property damage: It should be addressed explicitly in the MSA.
  • Failure to communicate: This issue arises when one company asks for updates, and the other does not answer promptly.
  • Failure to meet deadlines: Like anything else in business, failure to meet deadlines is a source of contention.
  • Failure to pay as agreed: Only missing deadlines is worse than missing payments. This type of conflict is the most likely to result in a disagreement.
  • Issues with performance or service: When a product fails to satisfy its objectives, the parties will blame each other.
  • Product defects: A product that fails after use will cause income to be delayed.
  • Unauthorized charges: A flurry of unexpected costs, similar to payment concerns, will make one party feel the other is cheating on the arrangement.

The Benefits of a Master Service Agreement

Cut-and-paste provisions or contractual templates are commonly used when a corporation moves quickly from one contract to the next. When you have a master service agreement, this isn’t necessary because of the following benefits:

It allows for unexpected alliances to arise or for a potential customer to use a nonstandard service without having to enter into a new arrangement. As a result, businesses do not have to deal with any issues coming from improperly designed contracts.

Because technology, operating environments, and markets are constantly evolving, organizations must keep an eye on their master service agreements to reduce their risk of litigation and avoid contractual issues.

When a business strikes a transaction, neither party wants to be held responsible for the other’s errors. A master service agreement ensures that if one party makes a mistake, that party will alone be liable for all financial damages. In contrast, the other party will be free of financial obligations. In some cases, a single party undertakes full financial responsibility for any mistakes made by the other party; as a result, they will sign an MSA and promise not to sue their business associate for any financial loss.

A master service agreement will safeguard the parties by identifying each company’s risks and establishing who will be in charge of each team during the project’s lifespan. This simplifies dispute settlement because the parties are already familiar with the agreement’s provisions and can quickly determine who is to blame.

Drafting a contract between two corporations is a time-consuming and expensive procedure, and the party must pay not only for the time spent but also for legal fees. As a result, it is in everyone’s best interest to get a deal done faster by constructing a master service agreement in which two parties agree on the contract’s essential components. Because an MSA has already established the main features of the project, when the parties take on a new project, they only have to focus on the minor components of the project, such as the time and cost required to complete the project.

What Are the Most Critical Aspects of a Master Service Agreement?

Because project managers rely on the master service agreement to provide clear direction on how the work should be done, it’s critical to construct it properly and include the following elements:

  • Resolution of disagreements

This provision explains how the parties will handle any issue during the engagement. This aids in reducing litigation costs and determining how to address the problems that arise within the contractual relationship. Appointing a mediator is an independent individual who facilitates a resolution between the parties. For example, parties can choose to settle their differences through arbitration, which is a less expensive alternative to going to court.

  • Terms of payment

A master service agreement’s clause allows both parties to agree on a specific price, payment method, and payment period.

  • Amends or adjustments in scope

When there is any modification for additional work or scheduling changes, the parties should be able to make revisions to the agreement.

  • Management of products and projects

This section specifies who is accountable for the delivery and installation of a product or service and who will bear responsibility if something goes wrong.

  • Insurance protection

The parties agree on how they will handle insurance acquisition and the consequences that will be imposed if the person in authority fails to secure and maintain the agreed-upon insurance coverage.

  • Security and escrow

This clause in a master service agreement will aid in determining who will fund the project and provide backup funds to ensure the project or product’s safety.

  • Work’s scope

It aids in determining what type of job the parties are expected to accomplish.

  • Indemnification provisions

This clause, often known as hold harmless provisions, releases one party from liability for damages and outlines what actions one party (the seller) agree to be accountable for if a third party sues the other party.

  • Responsibilities regarding taxes

A master service agreement should also include a clause stating who would be responsible for taxes and at what rate.

  • Human capital

By contributing human resources, this clause facilitates the creation and operation of new applications or the provision of extra services.

  • Termination

A master service agreement should include a defined project end date and any ongoing responsibilities, such as warranties. Early termination is one of the most contentious scenarios in which one of the parties fails to perform or makes regular payments. As a result of their failure to act under the agreement’s early-stage conflict resolution criteria, the parties frequently wind up in court.

Many master service agreements are drafted so that if the other party fails to execute its obligations, the only alternative left to the party is to terminate the deal, leaving one party owning a significant quantity of money and the other with a partially completed project useless.


One of the most typical lawsuit scenarios that can be avoided with a well-drafted MSA is when one party falls behind on payments. Still, the performing party continues to perform until a considerable deficit has accrued. To stall projects or shift blame, the non-paying party would frequently complain about the quality of the services or continue to refuse deliverables. On the other hand, the performing party may not fulfil some aspects of the project, either on time or within budget.

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