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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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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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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Quebec – No abuse of process where parallel arbitration and court proceedings – #815

In Gaston Gagné inc. c. Gagné, 2023 QCCS 4552, the Court confirmed that arbitration clauses should receive a broad and liberal interpretation, dismissed an application to annul a final arbitral award, homologated the award, and dismissed a claim in damages based on an alleged abuse of process by the party opposing homologation. Even though one party decided to bring court proceedings on the same issue he put before the arbitrator, there was no abuse of process because his court proceeding did not impede the arbitration.

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Québec – No revocation of a homologated award without the prior revocation of the judgment – #812

In Investissements Immobiliers MB inc. v. SMP Direct inc., 2023 QCCS 4526, the Superior Court dismissed the application of Investissements Immobiliers MB inc (“Plaintiff”) to partially revoke a judgment homologating an arbitration award. In her decision, the Judge ruled that the Plaintiff had delayed acting without justifying the delay and that the application for revocation of the homologating judgment had no reasonable chance of success. The background is complicated. The application followed multiple proceedings between the court and the Arbitrator. The Plaintiff (Claimant in the Arbitration) applied to the court to annul the arbitration award on the basis that the Arbitrator had exceeded his jurisdiction. Then, before that application was decided, the Plaintiff returned to the Arbitrator for revocation of the award based on the fact that there was subsequent information that he had not considered that would affect the result. The Arbitrator refused to hear Plaintiff’s demand before the Court ruled on the Plaintiff’s annulment application. The Court homologated the award. Plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal was dismissed. The Arbitrator then dismissed the application for revocation. He found that the Court must revoke the homologating judgment first, which made the issues ruled in the arbitration award revocation issue because the homologating judgment give the award the force of res judicata. The Plaintiff’s later return to the court to revoke the homologating judgment was too late – five months later. The lesson? An arbitrator has no jurisdiction to revoke an award that has been homologated in a court judgment.

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Timothy Reflects (2023): Are arbitral tribunals soft targets for bad actors? – #809

This case note reflects on emerging procedural and systemic vulnerabilities of arbitration, a timely and important topic in light of the recent decision of the High Court of England and Wales in  Process & Industrial Development v Federal Republic of Nigeria, [2023] EWHC 2638 (Comm) (“P&ID v Nigeria”). In that case, Justice Robin Knowles remarked: 

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Québec – Homologation refused where claim adjudication did not meet definition of “arbitration” – #800

In A. c. Frères du Sacré-Cœur, 2023 QCCS 2414, the Court determined that a claim adjudication process by two arbitrators pursuant to a class-action settlement agreement (“Agreement”) did not constitute arbitration. Therefore, the Court refused to homologate the arbitrators’ decisions, finding that two key features of arbitration described in Sport Maska Inc. v. Zittrer, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 564  (“Sport Maska”) were not present. 

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Ontario – ‘Parochial’ perspective on expert determination rejected – #708

In KMH Cardiology Centres Incorporated v Lambardar Inc., 2022 ONSC 7139, Justice Myers referred a dispute for expert determination pursuant to the parties’ agreement. He concluded that the parties intended the dispute to be determined by an expert, and not arbitration, even though it required the expert to engage in the exercise of contractual interpretation and not simply a mathematical calculation.

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John’s 2022 Hot Topic: Summary judgment in arbitration – #699

My “hot topic” for 2022 is the Court of Appeal for Ontario’s confirmation that an arbitration can be determined by summary judgment. In Optiva Inc. v. Tbaytel, 2022 ONCA 646, the Court approved proceeding by summary judgment motion where such a motion is consistent with the parties’ arbitration agreement. While the case addressed four grounds of appeal, including whether the arbitrator’s ruling to proceed by summary judgment was a procedural order or a jurisdictional award, the central issue, and my “hot topic,” is whether the arbitrator’s partial award, which decided a summary judgment motion should be set aside. For a summary of the decision, see Case Note – No oral hearing required even if one party requests it #667.

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Ontario – Arbitrator resignation did not terminate arbitration – #652

In Kubecka v Novakovic, 2022 ONSC 4503, Justice Pinto determined that, on the wording of the parties’ arbitration agreement, the parties had agreed that the arbitration was not terminated and their dispute returned to the jurisdiction of the courts – even when the arbitrator resigned. He appointed a replacement arbitrator on the application of one of the parties.

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