Alberta – Arbitrator not functus for issuing consent award after party denied settlement – #844

In Caroll v Caroll, 2024 ABKB 227, the Court found that the Arbitrator was not functus officio for issuing a Consent Award after a settlement was reached in a med-arb process.  One party denied the settlement but argued that, in any event, the Arbitrator’s jurisdiction was over after the settlement agreement and it was improper to “crystallize” the agreement into the Award. The Court dismissed this argument and found that there was a settlement. And the process was not unfair. The Arbitrator did not “conflate” the mediation and arbitration phases of the proceeding by terminating the proceeding after the settlement agreement rather than proceeding to arbitration once one party denied the settlement.

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Ontario –“Fraud” does not include “constructive fraud” for set-aside application deadline – #829

Campbell v Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 2600, 2024 ONCA 218, considered the meaning of “fraud” under section 46(1)9 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, SO 1991, c, 17. It provides that a court may set aside an award on the ground that, “the award was obtained by fraud.”  The first issue before the Court was whether “fraud” includes “constructive fraud.”  The main issue, however, was the interpretation to be given to sections 47(1) and (2), which provide that an application to set aside an award shall be commenced within 30 days after the applicant has received the award – except if the applicant alleges corruption or “fraud”.  The Court found that “fraud” does not include “constructive fraud, which means that the Respondents were out of time to bring their set-aside application. It found that a broadening of the definition of fraud is not consistent with the statutory objectives to narrow the grounds for court interference in arbitrations. The Court expressed the view that the allegation of constructive fraud was made for the purpose of circumventing the statutory time limit for bringing a set-aside application. (This case is also useful for its summary of basic arbitration law principles. If you need a quick update or refresher of these, see my Editor’s Notes below for a “cheat sheet”.)

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Lisa Reflects (2023): Aroma – the blockbuster case of 2023? – #804

Aroma Franchise Company Inc. et al. v Aroma Espresso Bar Canada Inc., 2023 ONSC 1827 was the case I think created the biggest “buzz” in 2023, likely because it was the only Canadian case (of which I am aware) that has addressed the gnarly issue of arbitrator disclosure obligations in circumstances in which the arbitrator has taken on multiple appointments at the same time, a situation in which the IBA Guidelines on Conflict of Interest in International Arbitration provides little, well, guidance. I reported on this decision in an earlier case note: Ontario – Multiple arbitral appointments give rise to reasonable apprehension of bias – #734 – Arbitration Matters. Since then, the case has continued to generate interest and commentary, which has kept me thinking about it. The Ontario Court of Appeal heard the appeal on December 6, 2023.

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Alberta – “Admissions” made by party in arbitration did not bind it in action – #795

In Paramount Resources Ltd. v Chubb Insurance Company of Canada, 2023 ABKB 627, Paramount, an oil and gas company, sued its insurers as a result of their denial of coverage with respect to an incident involving environmental contamination following a leak in a pipeline carrying natural gas condensate. The insurers asserted that the leak was “detected” outside the period required for coverage under the policy. This action proceeded in parallel with an arbitration between Paramount and its co-owner and operator of the pipeline, over whether Paramount was required to share in the remediation costs. Paramount settled the arbitration, paying less than the amount claimed by the operator. In the action, Paramount sought damages from the insurers in an amount equal to the settlement payment. The insurers defended, in part, on the basis that Paramount had made admissions in the arbitration which were fatal to its action against the insurers. The court rejected those arguments. First, Paramount was entitled to make alternative arguments in the arbitration. Second, there was a risk of inconsistent results in the two proceedings, including on whether there was coverage under the policies, which was important context. Third, Paramount was fully transparent in its strategy and the insurers did not rely upon Paramount’s “admissions”. Finally, Paramount’s “admissions of fact” as to when the leak was “detected” in the arbitration were issues of mixed fact and law in the action because they turned on the interpretation of the words “detected” and “discover” under the policy. The court found that the settlement was reasonable and awarded Paramount damages equal to the settlement amount for the insurers’ breach of contract.

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Ontario –  A pathological med-arb clause – #781

Stothers v Kazeks, 2023 ONSC 5021 is a perfect example of the confusion about the med-arb process that I covered in my last case note: Med-arb process was “fundamentally flawed” – #775. If you want to skip to the language of the pathological so-called med-arb clause without the factual background in this case, just scroll down to just above the Editor’s Notes section.

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B.C. – Med-arb process was “fundamentally flawed” – #775

In Shaikh v Brar, 2023 BCSC 1285, the applicants (“Tenants”) complained about an unfair mediation-arbitration process and applied for judicial review and an order setting aside a decision of an arbitrator from the B.C. Residential Tenancies Branch (“RTB”). This case note focusses on the med-arb issues it raises, not the relevant statutory regime, the nature of the Arbitrator’s discretion under it, or the standard of review. The Court found that the med-arb process was “fundamentally flawed” and set aside the award because the RTB Arbitrator: (1) used decision-making powers in the mediation stage that should have been reserved for the arbitration stage; and (2) went beyond the scope of appropriate exhortation to settle in the med-arb context. 

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Québec – “Uniformity principle” drives appointment of French amicus curiae to harmonize Québec law – #774

This case note reports on a trilogy of case management decisions that arose in the context of an application by the Claimant under art. 632 of the Code of Civil Procedure, RLRQ, c C-25.01 (“CCP”) challenging a tribunal’s jurisdiction to determine claims brought by the Respondent, which the Claimant alleged were new claims made after numerous rounds of written submissions – and thus outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction –  in a commercial arbitration relating to a lease agreement (the “Arbitration”). The key issues decided were: (1) a court conducts a hearing de novo when deciding an objection to a tribunal’s ruling on its own jurisdiction (Hypertec Real Estate Inc c Equinix Canada Ltd, 2023 QCCS 2103); (2) Claimant’s application for an interim stay of arbitral proceedings during the pendency of its jurisdictional challenge was denied (Hypertec Real Estate Inc c Equinix Canada Ltd, 2023 QCCS 2098); and (3) the Court appointed a French amicus curiae with expertise in international law to assist it during the jurisdictional hearing, invoking the Court’s duty to abide by the uniformity principle in interpreting Québec legislation based on the Model Law (Hypertec Real Estate Inc c Equinix Canada Ltd, 2023 QCCS 3061).

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Alberta – Misapplication of separability principle in contract dispute – #762

Gutama Estate v Vital Property Services Inc., 2023 ABKB 436, is NOT an arbitration case and the contract at issue contained no arbitration clause. But bear with me! The case involved the alleged repudiation/termination of a shareholders agreement and the consequences to the rights and obligations of the parties as a result. The question: if the contract was repudiated/terminated, were all the parties’ rights unwound? The Court quoted from Heyman v. Darwins Ltd. (, the leading U.K. decision that established the common law principle of separability of the arbitration clause. The Court described Heyman v Darwins as a case that addresses the operation of an arbitration clause where the contract has come to an end: in circumstances in which the contract-terminating event did not go to the very existence of the contract, “it did not matter how the contract came to be terminated: the contract (including its arbitration clause) had existed, and the arbitration clause continued to operate….” The Court then extrapolated that concept and applied it more broadly: “[i]n other words, pre-existing and engaged contractual rights continued to operate despite the later termination (by whatever means) of the contract”. Applying that reasoning to this case where the shareholders agreement was alleged to have been repudiated or terminated by its own terms, the Court said that any such termination did not,  “eclipse the agreement completely ie render it meaningless for all purposes and at all times… [i]nstead, crystalized rights and obligations would continue.”  In other words, “the parties would be discharged from future obligations, but remain bound by rights and obligations that have accrued through partial performance”. Thus the Court imported part of a uniquely arbitration law principle with a specific public policy purpose, separability, into general contract law.

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Ontario – Appeal allowed where arbitration agreement “invalid”; Arbitration Act not engaged – #746

In Goberdhan v Knights of Columbus, 2023 ONCA 327, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal of an order dismissing the Defendant’s/Appellant’s motion for a stay of proceedings in favour of arbitration. The motion judge found that the contracts containing the arbitration agreements were invalid for lack of consideration. He therefore refused the stay pursuant to s. 7(2)2 of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991 SO 1991, c 17. The Plaintiff/Respondent argued that no appeal was permitted under s. 7(6), which prohibits an appeal of a stay decision. The Court of Appeal disagreed and found that because the contracts and the arbitration clauses were invalid, the Arbitration Act,1991, was not engaged and there was no prohibition on appeal. The appeal was dismissed on its merits.

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Ontario – Multiple arbitral appointments give rise to reasonable apprehension of bias – #734

In Aroma Franchise Company Inc. et al. v Aroma Espresso Bar Canada Inc. et al., 2023 ONSC 1827, Justice Steele set aside two international awards (on the merits and as to costs and interest) arising out of a franchise dispute on the basis of a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the Arbitrator for failure to disclose that during the arbitration he had been appointed by counsel for one of the parties to serve as sole arbitrator on another matter even though it did not involve a franchise dispute and was in a different industry.

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