B.C. – Stay in favour of non-party to arbitration agreement in multi-party construction dispute – #828

In Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. v. JGC Constructors BC Ltd., 2024 BCSC 344, the Court granted two applications to stay litigation arising out of a large multi-party construction dispute in favour of arbitration.  The first Applicant was a contractor which had a subcontract with the Plaintiff that provided for mandatory arbitration, unless the dispute involved the owner or other project participants.  The second Applicant was the owner, a non-party to the subcontract, which argued that if the litigation was stayed against the contractor, it should be stayed against the owner as well.  The Court applied section 8 of the International Commercial Arbitration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 233 (“ICAA”) to stay the proceedings against the first Applicant.  The Court also stayed the action against the second Applicant owner pursuant to section 10 of the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253 to prevent a multiplicity of proceedings.

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Ontario – Abuse of process precludes re-litigating arbitrator bias allegation – #827

La Française IC 2 v. Wires, 2024 ONCA 171 involved an appeal from a judgment recognizing and enforcing an arbitration award obtained by the Respondent. The Appellant/Claimant in the arbitration, entered into a funding agreement.  The arbitration arose when the Appellant/Claimant commenced proceedings seeking recovery of fees under the funding agreement. The central issue before the Court was whether the doctrine of abuse of process prevented the Appellant/Claimant from arguing on the application to enforce the judgment that the arbitrator was biased, when that issue had already been dismissed by the arbitral institution that heard and decided the challenge. 

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Québec – No stay of arbitration without exceptional circumstances – #826

In McLaren Automotive Incorporated v. 9727272 Canada inc., 2024 QCCS 389, the Superior Court dismissed the application of McLaren Automotive Incorporated (“Applicant”) to stay the arbitration until the Superior Court had ruled on the merits of its applications: (1) to homologate the Arbitrator’s award concluding that he had no jurisdiction to act; and (2) to annul the arbitration appeal panel’s decision to overturn the arbitrator’s award on its own jurisdiction. The Judge reviewed the applicable criteria for a stay of the arbitration He concluded that exceptional circumstances are required to obtain a stay because of the respect that Courts must show toward arbitration agreements and the principle of limited interventions that the Court must follow in arbitrations. The Judge ruled that no such exceptional circumstances were demonstrated by the Applicant in the present case.  But the case is worth watching. The institutional rules under which the arbitration proceeded allowed for an appeal to a panel of arbitrators. The issue will be whether the appeal is permitted in Québec where, pursuant to section 648 CCP “an arbitration award may only be challenged by way of an application for annulment”.  There is no appeal right.

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B.C.  – Leave to appeal interim award premature until arbitration concludes – #825

Brown v Smithwick, 2024 BCCA 83 is about an application for leave to appeal an interim award brought pursuant to section 59 of the British Columbia Arbitration Act, SBC 2020 c 2 (“Arbitration Act”). The Applicant sought leave to appeal on the ground that the arbitrator had erred in law by concluding that a debt that the Applicant owed to the Respondent was a debt within section 178(1)(e) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c B03 (the “BIA”), as a debt that arises out of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity. The reasons of the Court focused on the issue of whether the leave application was premature because the arbitration had not yet ended. The Court held that while it has the discretion to grant leave to appeal from an interim arbitral award, the circumstances of the case weighed against exercising that discretion, including: (1) early judicial intervention would interfere with the arbitration process that the parties had agreed to; (2) the Applicant had not demonstrated that it would be prejudiced by the adjournment; and (3) there could be multiple leave applications to the Court arising from the same arbitration. The Court adjourned the leave application pending the conclusion of the arbitration. 

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Ontario – Affidavits of “reasonable and informed persons” inadmissible in bias challenge – #824

In The Law Society of British Columbia and Valerie Frances Hemminger, 2024 LSBC 7, a hearing panel of the Law Society of British Columbia Tribunal refused to admit twelve affidavits offered to support the Respondent’s allegation of a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the panel. The panel found the affidavits were inadmissible primarily because the “reasonable and informed person” part of the test for reasonable apprehension of bias is an objective legal fiction, not informed by a subjective person whose views may be assessed by evidence and then applied by a decision maker. Accordingly, the affidavits – which offered the opinions of self-professed “reasonable” people about the implications of procedural decisions at the heart of the Respondent’s challenge – were inadmissible.

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Alberta – A potential expansion of the exceptions to the competence-competence principle? – #823

In Orica Canada Inc v ARVOS GmbH, 2024 ABKB 97, the Court applied, and possibly expanded, the exception to the competence-competence principle that allows a Court to resolve a jurisdictional claim if there is a real prospect that referring the issue to arbitration would mean that it is never resolved. The Court also determined that, in an action between two parties without an arbitration agreement, where the defendant raises claims against a third party subject to an arbitration agreement, those third party claims cannot be included in the action and must be determined by arbitration, even if they are related to the issues between the plaintiff and defendant in the main action. However, any third party claims that are not subject to the arbitration agreement can proceed in the action.

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B.C. – Corrected award resets appeal time limits – #822

In Desert Properties Inc. v. G&T Martini Holdings Ltd., 2024 BCCA 24, the Court determined that when an arbitral tribunal corrects an award, the time to seek leave to appeal runs from the date of issuance of the corrected award (“Corrected Award”).   The appeal limitation period is not linked to party receipt of the original award (“Original Award”), irrespective of whether the grounds of appeal concern award corrections. The Court’s decision under Arbitration Act, SBC 2020, c. 2  (the “Act”) is consistent with other authorities which have considered the interplay between corrected awards and time limits for award challenges. 

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New Brunswick – Party autonomy includes ability to contract out of award – #821

The decision in Purrestore Management Services Inc., Gordon Gamble and Jason Reis v. Doiron, 2023 NBCA 110 concerns whether an arbitration clause in a franchise agreement that allowed a party to seek a de novo court trial if an arbitration award exceeded $100,000, conflicted with the mandatory provisions of the New Brunswick Arbitration Act, LRN-B 2014, c 100 (“Arbitration Act”).  The franchisor had obtained an arbitration award against the franchisees for over $100,000 (“Arbitral Award”).  The franchisees then sought a de novo trial, while the franchisor applied for judgment to enforce the Arbitral Award under s. 50 of the Act. The application judge affirmed the franchisees’ right to a de novo trial and dismissed the application for judgment.  The franchisor appealed, arguing that the Arbitration Act provided that s.50 could not be contracted out of and, therefore, in the absence of an appeal or an application to set aside the Arbitral Award the franchisor was entitled to judgment.  The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, concluding that the arbitration clause was not contrary to the Act as the Act permitted parties to contract out of s. 37, which provides that “an award binds the parties, unless it is set aside or varied under section 45 (appeal) or 46 (set aside)”.  To obtain a judgment to enforce an award under s. 50, a binding award under s. 37 was required but the parties had contracted out of 37 with their agreement. 

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Ontario – Arbitrator’s stand-alone jurisdiction decision a preliminary “ruling” open to de novo review – #820

In Clost v Rennie, 2023 ONSC 6998, the Court ruled that an arbitration agreement was invalid after  a de novo hearing to “decide the matter” of the arbitrator’s jurisdiction under section 17(8) of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c. 17 (the “Act”). The Applicant (also referred to in the decision and herein as “Norm”) contended that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it was contained in a lease agreement which he alleged was fraudulent because his signature was forged. The parties first submitted the jurisdictional issue to a sole arbitrator, who found the arbitration agreement to be valid. The Court accepted that a de novo hearing under s. 17(8) of the Act was required, finding that the Arbitrator had rendered a “ruling” on a preliminary question of jurisdiction rather than an “award”, even though the sole question he was asked to determine was jurisdiction. There was an extensive evidentiary record before the arbitrator relative to the jurisdictional issue.  This raised for debate the difference between an “award” and a “ruling” on a preliminary question which can be decided by the Court on a hearing de novo. The Court completed its own review of the extensive evidentiary record and ultimately concluded that the lease (and therefore the arbitration agreement) was fraudulent and invalid and the arbitrator had no jurisdiction  

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Québec – Arbitral award with declaratory relief no bar to homologation – #819

In Société des établissements de plein-air du Québec c. Station Mont-Ste-Anne inc., 2024 QCCS 2 (“SÉPAQ v. SMSA”), the Québec Superior Court granted homologation of an arbitral award and rejected its partial annulment, dismissing the argument that the award should not be homologated because it was merely declaratory. Also, the decision referred to parts of the award and arbitral record throughout its reasoning despite some concerns by one of the parties about maintaining the confidentiality of the arbitral record.

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