B.C. – Court strictly enforces arbitration rules to foreclose leave to appeal award – #843

In Bollhorn v Lakehouse Custom Homes Ltd., 2024 BCCA 192, the Court dismissed an application by the Appellant/Plaintiff Robert Bollhorn for leave to appeal an award of an arbitrator. This outcome resulted from the Court’s application of Rule 27 of the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre (“VanIAC”) Domestic Arbitration Rules (the “Rules”) and Section 59(3) of the Arbitration Act, SBC 2020, c 2. The former operates to foreclose appeals where the award is issued under the Expedited Procedures of the Rules, which the Court found applied to the case. The latter provides that there can be no appeal on a question of law where the arbitration agreement – in this case the parties’ adoption of the Rules – expressly disallows it.

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Ontario – Arbitrator’s relationship with party’s lender not sufficient for bias – #842

In Ballantry Construction Management Inc. v GR (CAN) Investment Co. Ltd., 2024 ONSC 2129 (“Ballantry”), the applicant, Ballantry Construction Management Inc. (“Applicant”), brought a motion for (among other things) an interlocutory injunction to restrain the Respondent from transferring or encumbering its assets pending the hearing of: (1) the Applicant’s application to enforce two arbitral awards; and (2) the Respondent’s application to set aside the  awards on the grounds of a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the Arbitrator. On the second issue, the Court concluded that while a “business relationship” between a party and the Arbitrator may create a reasonable apprehension of bias, here, the fact that the Arbitrator was a director and shareholder of the parent of a company that had provided a  loan to the Respondent did not support a finding of bias. This case considers how close a relationship between an arbitrator and a party is “too close” if a party seeks to set aside an award based on alleged arbitrator bias.

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Nunavut – No lawyer disqualification for near-client relationship in prior arbitration – #841

In The Government of Nunavut v. Stantec Architecture Ltd., 2024 NUCJ 11, the Court dismissed the application of Defendant Stantec Architecture Ltd. (“Stantec”) to disqualify the lawyers of the Plaintiff, Government of Nunavut (“Nunavut”), from acting in the litigation. The dispute arose from the construction of an arena (“Project”). Stantec, the architect for the Project, argued that the Nunavut’s lawyers were in a conflict of interest because of a confidential cooperation agreement in which Nunavut’s counsel had assisted Stantec in a previous arbitration in which Stantec and the construction company hired for the Project were parties. That construction company was not a party to this action. Stantec alleged a “near-client” relationship with Nunavut’s lawyers arising from this cooperation agreement which disqualified them from acting for Nunavut in this litigation. The Court dismissed the application because the cooperation agreement specifically excluded the creation of a solicitor-client relationship between Stantec and Nunavut’s lawyers and expressly reserved the parties’ rights and recourses against each other concerning the Project.

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Ontario – Court dismisses action for issue estoppel based on prior arbitration – #840

In Ford v. GMP Securities LP, 2024 ONSC 271, the Court partially dismissed an action for issue estoppel, relying on a 2022 arbitral award that had been rendered as a result of a dispute between a group of shareholders (of which the plaintiff was a part) and an entity that the defendants (investment dealer and senior investment banker) had represented in a reverse take-over process. The defendants were found to be privies of the parties to the previous arbitration, even though they were not parties themselves. The only claims remaining in the Ontario action were the ones that had not been raised or decided in the previous arbitration. 

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Ontario – International award enforced despite respondent’s non-participation – #839

Medivolve Inc. v. JSC Chukotka Mining and Geological Company, 2024 ONSC 2200, the Court refused Medivolve’s application to set aside an international arbitration award issued by a Moscow-seated tribunal, instead granting Chukotka’s application to recognize and enforce the award. Medivolve failed to appear at the arbitration and claimed that it had not been given proper notice or an opportunity to be heard. The Court found that Medivolve had proper notice of the arbitration within the meaning of Art. 36(1)(a)(ii) of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (the “Model Law”). It had received actual notice, by email, of the pendency and status of the arbitration well before the award was rendered even though it changed offices (without notifying the opposing party). 

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B.C. – BCCA goes deep and wide on partial stays – #838

Davidson v. Lyra Growth Partners Inc., 2024 BCCA 133 concerns whether there is jurisdiction under s. 7 of the Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2 (“Arbitration Act”) to grant a partial stay of court proceedings concerning only those matters arguably agreed to be arbitrated by the parties or whether a court is required to stay the entire action.  The Court confirmed that partial stays are available under the Arbitration Act where the court action raises some non-arbitrable matters despite there being no express language permitting non-arbitrable matters to proceed in Court – unlike other provincial legislation. It set out factors that should be considered by a court of first instance in determining whether to grant a partial stay or a complete stay. It also emphasized, however, that a stay of those matters arguably agreed to be arbitrated is mandatory if the requirements of s. 7 are met. In this case it had been argued that a stay could be refused as the “essential nature” or “pith and substance” of the court proceedings related to matters not covered by the arbitration agreement. The Court confirmed that there is no “residual” jurisdiction to deny a stay on that basis. This decision aligns with the Supreme Court of Canada’s guidance in TELUS Communications Inc. v Wellman, 2019 SCC 19 (“Wellman”) concerning the mandatory nature of stays of court proceedings that relate to any matter arguably reserved for arbitration.

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Ontario – Court can hear set aside despite NY forum selection clause – #837

In Tehama Group Inc v Pythian Services Inc, 2024 ONSC 1819, the Court declined to stay an application to set aside an arbitration award. The stay application was based on a forum selection clause in favour of the courts of New York. In denying the stay, the Ontario court applied an exception in that forum selection clause regarding certain types of disputes under the parties’ agreement that were to be referred to arbitration. The key issue in the case concerned establishing the “place” of the arbitration, which had not been expressly set out by the parties or determined by the arbitrator. Applying the International Commercial Arbitration Act, RSO 1990, c I.9 (“ICAA”) and  UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (“Model Law“) the Court determined that Toronto, Ontario, was the place of arbitration and that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was therefore the only competent forum to decide the set-aside application. 

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Ontario – Arbitrators cannot ignore the law or defy the Court – #836

In Eyelet Investment Corp. v. Song, 2024 ONSC 2340, the Divisional Court’s decision starts with: “Domestic arbitrations in Ontario must be decided in accordance with the law. Arbitrators are accorded broad deference for matters within their jurisdiction and in defining the scope of their jurisdiction. But they are not free to ignore the law or to decide cases in accordance with their whims”. In Eyelet, the Court set aside the damages award from an arbitration concerning repudiated real estate transactions. The Court identified multiple instances where the arbitrator defied directions from the Supreme Court to determine the claims and remedies on remittal. Rather than following the law, the arbitrator addressed damages in accordance with his sense of fairness. The Court directed the damages and cost determinations to a new arbitrator.

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Ontario – Parties share responsibility to keep arbitration moving – #835

In Bank-Strox Renovation Inc. v. Lugano View Limited, (“Bank-Strox”) the Court dismissed the defendant’s motion to dismiss a construction lien action for delay where the had parties agreed to have their dispute resolved by arbitration. As a reminder of the sharp distinction between litigation and arbitration, the Court held that a respondent in an arbitration has the same, or in some circumstances a greater, contractual obligation to keep the arbitration moving as the claimant. Simply sitting back and doing nothing is not a basis to later seek dismissal of the claim for delay. That might work in a court case but it won’t where the parties have agreed to move their dispute to arbitration.

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Québec – Attempt to circumvent ICC Tribunal order amounts to fraud (in Canada) – #834

In Eurobank Ergasias S.A. v. Bombardier inc., 2024 SCC 11, the Court held that a call on a bank guarantee in contravention of an order of an arbitral tribunal in a pending ICC arbitration amounted to fraud under Canadian law, such that the bank that issued a related counter-guarantee was required to refuse payment.

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