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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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 – Principles applicable to awarding costs in domestic arbitrations clarified – #817

In Schickedanz v. Wagema Holdings Limited, 2023 ONSC 7219, the Court dismissed an appeal of an arbitrator’s costs award and in so doing, clarified two principles applicable to the awarding of costs in domestic arbitrations arising under the Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17 (the “Arbitration Act”). First, whereas in civil litigation, leave is required for an appeal from an order as to costs, the same is not true in relation to appeals from arbitral cost awards pursuant to Section 45 of the Arbitration Act. Second, the Court confirmed that unlike the Rules of Civil Procedure, arbitrators awarding costs pursuant to the Arbitration Act may award reasonable legal fees without reference to any court scale. Therefore, partial indemnity costs are not the governing presumption in domestic arbitrations and full indemnity costs may be awarded as reasonable without establishing undue or improper conduct. 

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B.C. – “Lacuna” identified in B.C.’s domestic arbitration scheme? – #811

In Bollhorn v. Lakehouse Custom Homes Ltd., 2023 BCCA 444, One justice of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia referred an application for leave to appeal from the decision of an arbitrator to a full panel of that Court. The Court identified what it termed “a gap [in the legislative scheme] that may confound the general understanding of ‘where there is a right, there is a remedy’”. That gap arises from the apparent application of the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre [“VanIAC”] expedited arbitration rules to claims under $250,000, which preclude appeals unless the parties agree otherwise. 

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Stephanie Reflects (2023): What’s the Standard? Reviews, Appeals and “Decisions of the Matter” – #806

For better or for worse, parties can challenge arbitral decisions through multiple avenues, whether through a review of a preliminary jurisdictional ruling, set-aside application, or appeal. Arbitration case law in 2023 highlighted a striking lack of consistency between the standards of review and appeal applied in each of these different avenues.

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B.C. – failure to answer fundamental question not an extricable error of law – #801

In Hudson’s Bay Company ULC v. Piret (18111 Blundell Road) Holdings Inc., 2023 BCCA 428, the Court held that the failure of an arbitrator to answer a fundamental question is a matter of interpretation of the arbitral award and does not give rise to an extricable error of law. It dismissed the application for leave to appeal. This decision seems to stand in contrast to other recent decisions coming out of the same court that have held a material misapprehension of evidence going to the core of an outcome of an arbitral award can amount to an extricable legal error.

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Québec – Final Award on arbitrator’s own jurisdiction: what recourse(s)? – #797

In ADREQ (CSD) Estrie c. Centre intégré universitaire de santé et des services sociaux de l’Estrie – CHUS, 2023 QCCA 1315, the Court of Appeal granted leave  to appeal  a Superior Court decision dismissing an application for annulment of an arbitration award. The first instance Judge ruled that despite the fact that the arbitrator heard the whole case on the merits and decided in the final award that he had no jurisdiction, the award could not be contested under the annulment provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (sec. 648), but rather must be challenged under the provisions concerning an arbitrator’s ruling on their own jurisdiction (sec. 632). Because of the potential overlap between these provisions and because of the limited jurisprudence on their application, the Court of Appeal deemed that it was a subject of interest for the Court and granted the leave. 

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Manitoba – Awards set aside after arbitrator re-wrote parties’ bargain – #790

In Buffalo Point First Nation and Buffalo Point Development Corp Ltd v Buffalo Point Cottage Owners Association, Inc, 2023 MBKB 141, the Court confirmed its earlier decision on the motion for leave to appeal, in which it held that the correctness standard of appeal in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 (“Vavilov”) applies to review of private arbitration awards appealed under provincial arbitration legislation. The Court held that the arbitrator had erred because he exceeded the jurisdiction granted to him under the parties’ agreement. First, the arbitrator exceeded the jurisdiction to “implement” or “clarify” a Consent Award which the parties had entered into following an earlier dispute. Second, the arbitrator’s award constituted a significant rewrite of the bargain (…) by introducing new concepts alien to the negotiated bargain”. 

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Ontario – Appeals combined where stay of proceedings impacts class certification – #788

In Davis v Amazon Canada Fulfillment Services, ULC, 2023 ONCA 634 the Court combined two appeals initiated in two different courts arising from a single decision that concerned two interrelated motions. One was an appeal of a stay of proceedings in favour of arbitration granted pursuant to  s. 7 of the Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17 (“Arbitration Act”) and the other was an appeal of a decision denying class certification. The Plaintiff appealed the decision denying class certification to the Divisional Court, as required by the then applicable version of the class proceedings legislation [Class Proceedings Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c 6 (“CPA”)]  and appealed the stay decision to the Court of Appeal. The Plaintiff then applied to the Court of Appeal to transfer the class certification appeal from the Divisional Court to the Court of Appeal and join it to the stay appeal. The Court granted the application. It concluded that to do so was in the interests of the administration of justice. The Court found that, as some of the proposed class members (although not the representative plaintiff) were alleged to be subject to arbitration agreements, “the appeal of the stay decision goes directly to who may be class members and is completely premised on certification being under consideration” (para. 14). The Court was of the view this finding weighed strongly in favour of the appeals being combined “so that they can be managed, sequenced, considered, and decided taking into account and specifying the effect a decision in one may have on the other” (para. 13). 

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