Ontario – No stay despite broad arbitration clause – #629

In FNF Enterprises Inc. v. Wag and Train Inc., 2022 ONSC 2813,Justice Ramsay dismissed the Defendant’s motion for a stay of proceedings under section 7 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17. The Defendant sought a stay of proceedings based on an arbitration clause included in a lease agreement. Justice Ramsay concluded that, standing alone, the arbitration clause suggested that issues arising out of the lease agreement shall be determined by way of arbitration, but he decided that, interpreting the lease agreement as a whole, the arbitration clause did not extend to an issue concerning collection of unpaid rent, which could be sought by action. Therefore, Justice Ramsay declined to stay the proceedings.

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Québec – Court extends arbitrator’s immunity to appointing authority – #619

In B Smart Technology inc. v. American Arbitration Association, 2022 QCCS 1526, Justice Mark Phillips granted the Defendants’ Application for dismissal of the Plaintiff’s Request for Provisional Interlocutory Injunction and Order to Safeguard the Rights of Plaintiff. The Defendants were the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) and the arbitrator it had appointed. In its Request, Plaintiff sought orders: (1) to recuse and replace the arbitrator; (2) to review the arbitration proceedings, including the costs of the proceedings, the reimbursement for arbitrator’s fees paid to date; and (3) alternatively, the annulment of the arbitration clause and referral of the dispute to the Superior Court. Justice Phillips’s judgment was mainly based on the application of two well-known principles in arbitration law: arbitrator protection against prosecution/immunity (sec. 621 CCP); and the exclusion of court review except as provided by law (sec. 622 CCP). Justice Phillips reaffirmed that the arbitrator’s protection against prosecution is broad and applies both to the arbitrator’s liability and to any challenges against the conduct of the arbitration process itself. He found that the institute offering arbitration services is covered by the protection as well. Justice Phillips also confirmed the exclusion of court review principle, which prevents courts from interfering in an arbitration process other than within the strict and limited occasions provided by law. In this case, the law did not provide for court intervention. Finally, the issue was moot because the arbitrator terminated the arbitration for the Plaintiffs’ failure to pay his costs, as he was entitled to do under the AAA Rules.

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Québec – Annulment: no review of the merits, even if award wrong – #603

In Balabanian v. Paradis, 2022 QCCS 959, Justice Harvie reaffirmed clearly that courts have no jurisdiction to revisit the merits of an arbitral award or the arbitrator’s reasons and assessment of the evidence when a party is seeking homologation or annulment of an arbitral award. This judgment is one of many in a saga involving opposing co-owners regarding the management and maintenance of their property. The co-ownership contract included an arbitration agreement. A group of co-owners alleged a lack of transparency and equity by Balabanian in the management and maintenance of the property. The dispute against Balabanian resulted in two arbitrations and court proceedings, taking place in parallel. Justice Harvie’s decision concerned the second arbitration process. The group of co-owners sought the homologation of the second arbitral award, while Balabanian asked for its annulment. Balabanian contested the award for numerous reasons, including: the arbitrator’s appointment because of his lack of independence and neutrality, the lack of jurisdiction of the arbitrator, the award going beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement, the violation of the fundamental right to be heard and, more generally, the merits of the award itself. Justice Harvie dismissed every argument made by Balabanian against the award, reaffirming the strict scope of analysis of homologation/annulment grounds according to sections 645 and 646 CCP.

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Québec – Enforcement of foreign award against alter egos – #578

In CC/Devas (Mauritius) Ltd. v. Republic of India, 2022 QCCS 7, Justice Pinsonnault was seized with several questions with respect to two seizures before judgment by garnishment, which were authorized within the context of an application for recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards rendered outside of Québec. What makes this situation of interest is the fact that the seizures before judgment involved assets (money) owned by third parties who were not defendants to the arbitration or named in the awards for which recognition is sought (still pending). They are not implicated at all in the facts alleged in the dispute leading to these awards and they are not targeted in the awards either. Nonetheless, Justice Pinsonnault concluded that the allegations against these third-party corporations (fully owned by the respondent, Republic of India) were sufficient to cause him to confirm the seizure against one of them, although with a revised scope. The seizure against the other corporation was dismissed for other reasons related to the State Immunity Act. The application for recognition and enforcement of the awards remains pending.

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Québec – Court favors arbitration even for related, but non-signatory, parties – #541

In 10053686 Canada inc. v. Tang, 2021 QCCS 3467, Justice Geeta Narang declined jurisdiction with respect to a dispute arising out of a Franchise Agreement. Plaintiffs were the franchisees and a director of a franchisee. Defendants were directors and shareholders of the franchisor. Justice Narang referred the case to private arbitration following Defendants’ demand for declinatory exception because the Franchise Agreement contained an arbitration clause. Justice Narang first concluded that the arbitration agreement was a “complete undertaking to arbitrate”, in conformity with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Zodiak International v. Polish People Republic, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 529. She concluded that all allegations in the Plaintiffs’ claim were related to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and covered by the arbitration agreement. Secondly, she recognized the Legislator’s intention to favor a private dispute resolution mechanism over the public justice system whenever the parties have expressed the intention to resolve their dispute out of court. Thirdly, she granted Defendants’ demand for a declinatory exception, even though all Defendants and one of the Plaintiffs were non-signatories to the arbitration agreement. In interpreting the arbitration agreement liberally, she concluded that in this context ignoring the arbitration agreement because the Defendants were not parties to the arbitration agreement would be to rely upon a “blind technicality”.

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Québec – Arbitration clause cannot be avoided by bringing a class action – #531

In Centre de santé dentaire Gendron Delisle inc. c. La Personnelle, Assurances générales inc., 2021 QCCS 3463, Justice Davis reaffirmed that a valid arbitration clause will be enforced and cannot be avoided by the Plaintiff bringing a class action. In this matter, the Plaintiff sought authorization to bring a class action against various insurance companies under various insurance policies and to be appointed as representative Plaintiff on behalf of dental clinics which claimed business interruption losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Davis dismissed the request for authorization on the basis that it did not meet the requirements of Article 575(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure. However, he said that had he granted authorization, those insured dental clinics covered by an insurance contract containing a valid arbitration clause would have been excluded from the group covered by the class action and referred to arbitration.

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