Ontario – Court dismisses action for issue estoppel based on prior arbitration – #840

In Ford v. GMP Securities LP, 2024 ONSC 271, the Court partially dismissed an action for issue estoppel, relying on a 2022 arbitral award that had been rendered as a result of a dispute between a group of shareholders (of which the plaintiff was a part) and an entity that the defendants (investment dealer and senior investment banker) had represented in a reverse take-over process. The defendants were found to be privies of the parties to the previous arbitration, even though they were not parties themselves. The only claims remaining in the Ontario action were the ones that had not been raised or decided in the previous arbitration. 

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B.C. – BCCA goes deep and wide on partial stays – #838

Davidson v. Lyra Growth Partners Inc., 2024 BCCA 133 concerns whether there is jurisdiction under s. 7 of the Arbitration Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 2 (“Arbitration Act”) to grant a partial stay of court proceedings concerning only those matters arguably agreed to be arbitrated by the parties or whether a court is required to stay the entire action.  The Court confirmed that partial stays are available under the Arbitration Act where the court action raises some non-arbitrable matters despite there being no express language permitting non-arbitrable matters to proceed in Court – unlike other provincial legislation. It set out factors that should be considered by a court of first instance in determining whether to grant a partial stay or a complete stay. It also emphasized, however, that a stay of those matters arguably agreed to be arbitrated is mandatory if the requirements of s. 7 are met. In this case it had been argued that a stay could be refused as the “essential nature” or “pith and substance” of the court proceedings related to matters not covered by the arbitration agreement. The Court confirmed that there is no “residual” jurisdiction to deny a stay on that basis. This decision aligns with the Supreme Court of Canada’s guidance in TELUS Communications Inc. v Wellman, 2019 SCC 19 (“Wellman”) concerning the mandatory nature of stays of court proceedings that relate to any matter arguably reserved for arbitration.

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Ontario – Court can hear set aside despite NY forum selection clause – #837

In Tehama Group Inc v Pythian Services Inc, 2024 ONSC 1819, the Court declined to stay an application to set aside an arbitration award. The stay application was based on a forum selection clause in favour of the courts of New York. In denying the stay, the Ontario court applied an exception in that forum selection clause regarding certain types of disputes under the parties’ agreement that were to be referred to arbitration. The key issue in the case concerned establishing the “place” of the arbitration, which had not been expressly set out by the parties or determined by the arbitrator. Applying the International Commercial Arbitration Act, RSO 1990, c I.9 (“ICAA”) and  UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (“Model Law“) the Court determined that Toronto, Ontario, was the place of arbitration and that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was therefore the only competent forum to decide the set-aside application. 

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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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B.C. – Consumer protection claim survives stay application through last-minute amendment – #830

Polanski v Vancouver Career College (Burnaby) Inc. concerns a defendant’s stay application brought under s. 7 of the Arbitration Act, SBC 2020, c 2 (“Arbitration Act”). The Court dismissed the application to stay certain claims made under s. 172 of the British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (“BPCPA”). The Court, relying on various appellate cases, held that s. 172 restricted the parties’ ability to agree to arbitrate and that the policy objectives of s. 172 would not be served by private and confidential arbitration. Why did the court need to re-articulate this well-established principle? Perhaps because the defendant needed to pivot after it had initially brought the application in response to the plaintiffs’ changing positions. The plaintiffs only added the s. 172 claims in the face of the stay motion and then only consented to the stay of the remainder of their claims for damages, including under s. 171 of the BPCPA, at the hearing of the application – no doubt, to the dismay of defence counsel who were facing a moving target. (A brief refresher for those in need it: s. 172 provides for private enforcement of consumer protection claims in the public interest, while s. 171 provides for  a private remedy for damages or loss.)

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B.C. – Stay in favour of non-party to arbitration agreement in multi-party construction dispute – #828

In Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. v. JGC Constructors BC Ltd., 2024 BCSC 344, the Court granted two applications to stay litigation arising out of a large multi-party construction dispute in favour of arbitration.  The first Applicant was a contractor which had a subcontract with the Plaintiff that provided for mandatory arbitration, unless the dispute involved the owner or other project participants.  The second Applicant was the owner, a non-party to the subcontract, which argued that if the litigation was stayed against the contractor, it should be stayed against the owner as well.  The Court applied section 8 of the International Commercial Arbitration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 233 (“ICAA”) to stay the proceedings against the first Applicant.  The Court also stayed the action against the second Applicant owner pursuant to section 10 of the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253 to prevent a multiplicity of proceedings.

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Ontario – Abuse of process precludes re-litigating arbitrator bias allegation – #827

La Française IC 2 v. Wires, 2024 ONCA 171 involved an appeal from a judgment recognizing and enforcing an arbitration award obtained by the Respondent. The Appellant/Claimant in the arbitration, entered into a funding agreement.  The arbitration arose when the Appellant/Claimant commenced proceedings seeking recovery of fees under the funding agreement. The central issue before the Court was whether the doctrine of abuse of process prevented the Appellant/Claimant from arguing on the application to enforce the judgment that the arbitrator was biased, when that issue had already been dismissed by the arbitral institution that heard and decided the challenge. 

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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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Alberta – A potential expansion of the exceptions to the competence-competence principle? – #823

In Orica Canada Inc v ARVOS GmbH, 2024 ABKB 97, the Court applied, and possibly expanded, the exception to the competence-competence principle that allows a Court to resolve a jurisdictional claim if there is a real prospect that referring the issue to arbitration would mean that it is never resolved. The Court also determined that, in an action between two parties without an arbitration agreement, where the defendant raises claims against a third party subject to an arbitration agreement, those third party claims cannot be included in the action and must be determined by arbitration, even if they are related to the issues between the plaintiff and defendant in the main action. However, any third party claims that are not subject to the arbitration agreement can proceed in the action.

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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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