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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B.C. – No arbitrator bias where prima facie merits and credibility determinations made – #833

In Johnston v. Octaform Inc., 2024 BCSC 537, the Court dismissed a petition to have an arbitrator removed from an ongoing arbitration on the basis of an alleged reasonable apprehension of bias. The circumstances relied on by the petitioners arose from the arbitrator’s issuance of a freezing order and other procedural directions, in a hard fought and contested arbitration. The fact that the freezing order required the arbitrator to make findings of credibility and preliminary merits determinations did not give rise to bias. Also, the trigger for the 15-day period to challenge an arbitrator for bias is not an “open and fluid concept”.

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Ontario – Award unreasonable where tribunal failed to follow binding law on frustration – #832

In Taseko Mines Limited v. Franco-Nevada Corporation, 2023 ONSC 2055, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Commercial List) granted an appeal from an arbitral award due to, among other things, the arbitrator’s failure to apply binding precedent on frustration of contract. Although the Court applied a deferential reasonableness standard, it concluded the arbitrator’s departure from binding jurisprudence rendered the award unreasonable.

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Singapore – Party cannot resist enforcement on grounds already rejected at seat – #831

In The Republic of India v. Deutsche Telekom AG, [2023] SGCA(I) 10, the Singapore Court of Appeal held that India could not resist recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award based on arguments that had already been rejected in a set-aside proceeding in Switzerland, the seat of the arbitration. Applying the doctrine of transnational issue estoppel, the Court of Appeal held that parties to a proceeding to set aside an award at the seat are generally precluded from resisting recognition and enforcement of the award on grounds raised before the court at the seat and rejected by that court. 

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