B.C. – Leave to appeal threshold not overcome by strategic drafting – #645

In MDG Contracting Services Inc. v. Mount Polley Mining Corporation, MDG sought leave to appeal an arbitral award on the basis of section 30 (errors of law) and to set aside the award on the basis of section 31 (failing to observe the rules of natural justice) of the former B.C. Arbitration Act, RSBC 1995, c 55. Justice McDonald dismissed MDG’s petition on the basis that it failed to meet the threshold requirement for granting leave in cases where there is a “clearly perceived and delineated” question of law, or, a rare extricable question of law. Rather, MDG’s arguments raised questions of mixed fact and law by submitting that despite the Arbitrator making a correct statement regarding the law, when properly applied, it should have resulted in a different outcome. The court also rejected MDG’s argument that the Arbitrator failed to observe the rules of natural justice when he failed to explain how he reached a “summary conclusion”, as the Award contained ample detail regarding the Arbitrator’s findings.

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Alberta – Appeal process under s. 44(2) of the Arbitration Act clarified – #623

In Esfahani v. Samimi, 2022 ABCA 178, the Court of Appeal for Alberta set out the procedure to be undertaken by the Court of Queen’s Bench when an arbitral award is appealed under s. 44(2) of the Arbitration Act, RSA 2000, c A-43. It states that if the arbitration agreement does not provide that the parties may appeal an award to the court on a question of law, a party may, with the permission of the court, appeal an award to the court on a question of law. The Court of Appeal held that the procedure is as follows: (a) an appeal does not exist unless permission to appeal is granted; (b) if parties do not make the required election in their arbitration agreement, permission to appeal is required and will be granted on questions of law only, subject to s 44(3) of the Arbitration Act (which provides that a party may not appeal an award to the court on a question of law that the parties expressly referred to the arbitral tribunal for decision); and (c) an application for permission to appeal must be heard and decided first, and separately, not contemporaneously with the appeal of the arbitral award.

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Nova Scotia – Self-inflicted compliance issues no basis to object to arbitration – #604

In Install-A-Floor Limited v. The Roy Building Limited, 2022 NSSC 67, the applicant, Floors Plus, sought an order appointing an arbitrator pursuant to the dispute resolution provision of its contract with the respondent, the Roy. The respondent opposed the application on two grounds: (1) the applicant lost its right to pursue arbitration as the limitation period had expired; and (2) the applicant did not adhere to certain contractual requirements and as such was disentitled to apply for the appointment of an arbitrator. Justice Norton granted the relief sought and ordered the arbitrator be appointed pursuant to the parties’ contract. On the evidence before him, Justice Norton found that the arbitration was commenced in compliance with the applicable limitation period. He also found that there was nothing in the parties’ contract to indicate that the respondent was relieved of its contractual obligations to participate in the dispute resolution process, and further, that the respondent could not rely on compliance issues created by its own conduct to object to arbitration. 

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B.C. – No breach of dispute resolution clause, no damages where party refused communication to resolve dispute – #584

In JM Bay Properties Inc. v Tung Cheng Yuen Buddhist Association, 2022 BCSC 81, Justice Walker found that a contract’s dispute resolution clause which provided that “parties shall make all reasonable efforts to resolve their dispute by amicable negotiations and agree to provide, without prejudice, frank, candid and timely disclosure of relevant facts, information and documents to facilitate these negotiations” was not breached in circumstances where a party decided not to engage in any further communication with the other party to resolve a dispute between them. Justice Walker noted that the party alleging breach did not raise its complaint about the dispute resolution clause at the time of the contract’s termination. Finally, he held that even if the party were in breach, the party alleging the breach failed to establish that it had suffered any damages.

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Liz’s 2021 Top Pick: Ontario – CUSO International v. Pan American Development Foundation 2021 ONSC 3101 – #570

This case is my top pick as the facts and issues between the parties serve to highlight the value of the arbitration process, including characteristics related to enforceability, neutral forum, party autonomy, confidentiality and arbitrator selection. It also shows how these matters can deliver tangible benefits to parties.

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Ontario – Court of Appeal does not address whether Vavilov changed the standard of review – #546

In Ontario First Nations (2008) Limited Partnership v. Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, 2021 ONCA 592, Justice Jamal (as he then was), writing for the Court of Appeal, found that it was unnecessary to address whether Vavilov changed the standard of review analysis in Sattva and Teal Cedar in an appeal from a commercial arbitration decision. Justice Jamal held that the parties’ disagreement as to how the applicable principles of contractual interpretation should be applied to the contractual facts is, absent an extricable error of law, an exercise of contractual interpretation by a first-instance decision maker on a matter of mixed fact and law that attracts appellant deference. Further, the Court should refrain from deciding issues of law that are unnecessary to the resolution of an appeal.  

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