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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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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B.C. – Reasons for granting anti-suit injunction to prevent arbitration different than litigation – #818

In Axion Ventures Inc. v Bonner, 2024 BCSC 45 (“Axion”), the Court addressed a British Columbia application for anti-suit injunctions to prevent the respondents from proceeding with a Washington State lawsuit and an arbitration seated in Thailand. Axion is a skirmish in the ongoing war over the ownership and control of Axion Ventures Inc. and Axion Interactive (the two applicants in this case) and their assets and those of their subsidiary and related entities in other jurisdictions around the world. The applicants were both plaintiffs and defendants in litigation already underway in BC. For reasons described below the Court ultimately adjourned the anti-suit injunction applications. However, it recognized a distinction between anti-suit injunctions sought in respect of foreign court actions and those sought in respect of commercial arbitrations; namely, that the latter do not engage principles of comity. And of particular interest to BC counsel, the Court suggested there is no absolute rule in BC that an anti-suit can only be sought after a stay application is brought in the foreign proceeding.

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B.C. – Enforcing award may be easy; collection may not – #813

In Asia Growth v. Qiao, 2023 BCSC 2173, the claimant was successful in its international arbitration and obtained a damages award of more than $17 million. However, the path to recovery was not simple as the respondent quickly transferred his only asset in B.C., his house, to his daughter. To recover, the claimant not only had to bring enforcement proceedings but also an action to set aside the transfer as a fraudulent conveyance. The claimant got default judgment against the respondent, his daughter and his wife (the other co-owner). Yet, that was still not the end of the story for the claimant. It then had to try to engage in a sale process to sell the respondent’s interest in the property, only to be faced with an application to set aside the default judgment. In this decision, the B.C. court dismissed the application, ultimately clearing a path to recovery for the claimant. This exemplifies that even after the court issues an order enforcing the arbitral award, the path to recovery is not always simple.

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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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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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B.C. – Court articulates principles on fixing conditions in leave applications – #778

In Kingsgate Property Ltd. v The Board of Education of School District No. 39, 2023 BCSC 1266, the Court considered the text, context and purpose of s. 31(3) of the (former) Arbitration Act R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 55 (the “Arbitration Act”). (Comparable language appears in s. 59(5) of the current B.C. domestic Act.) That section allowed a court to attach such conditions to an order granting leave to appeal an arbitration award as it considers just. The Court determined that s. 31(3) empowered the Court to impose conditions on granting leave to appeal that will prevent miscarriages of justice. Here, the Court made two such orders sought by the petitioner Kingsgate Property Ltd. (the “Tenant”). Firstly, the Court settled the terms of security with respect to the Tenant’s appeal of an award made in a rent review arbitration (the “Award”). Secondly, the Court ordered a stay of the Award and a default notice the Board of Education of School District No. 39 School Board (the “Landlord ”) had issued for arrears of rent (the “Default Notice”). 

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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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B.C. – “Neutral nationality principle” not limited to nationality in Court’s arbitral appointment – #773

In Fotmer v Tilray, 2023 BCSC 1323, the Court held that in an international arbitration, an American company’s multiple connections to British Columbia (including a place of business) precluded court appointment of a Canadian arbitrator over the objection of the opposing party. After considering the neutral nationality principle, the Court found that although the respondent was incorporated in Delaware, its close and obvious connections to British Columbia could give rise to a perception of bias if a Canadian arbitrator were appointed. Such an appointment would risk undermining the integrity of the arbitral process. 

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