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 – Refusal to respond not a waiver to arbitrate – #686

In Justmark Industries Inc. v. Infinitus (China) Ltd., 2022 ONSC 5495, Justice Williams granted the Defendant/Moving Party’s motion to stay the court action in favour of arbitration. The Plaintiff/Responding Party Justmark Industries Inc. (“Justmark”) commenced the court action for breach of contract against the Defendant/Moving Party Infinitus (China) Ltd. (“Infinitus”). The contract, however, contained an arbitration clause requiring disputes to be arbitrated in Hong Kong by the Arbitration Committee of the International Trade Council (the “ITC”) pursuant to the law of the United Kingdom. As such, Infinitus brought a motion under s 9 of Ontario’s International Commercial Arbitration Act, 2017 (the “ICAA”), which incorporates Article 8(1) of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (the “Model Law”), to stay the proceedings. In response, Justmark alleged that Infinitus had waived its right to arbitration and thus rendered the arbitration agreement “inoperative” under Model Law Article 8(1). Justmark claimed that Infinitus’s failure to respond to its requests to commence arbitration amounted to waiver. Justice Williams, however, dismissed Justmark’s  argument on the grounds that there was no evidence that “[16] …  Infinitus had the requisite ‘unequivocal and conscious intention,’ or any intention, to abandon its right to arbitrate.

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Alberta – Arbitral award enforced despite Russian sanctions  – #685

In Angophora Holdings Limited v. Ovsyankin, 2022 ABKB 711, Justice Romaine dismissed an application by an arbitral award debtor to stay enforcement of the award issued in favour of a party indirectly owned and controlled by Russian bank Gazprombank JSC, which is an entity subject to Russian sanctions. 

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Ontario – Foreign award enforcement upheld on appeal despite previous attornment to court – #679

In Wang v. Luo, 2022 ONSC 5544, Justice LeMay, sitting as an Ontario Divisional Court judge, upheld the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award rendered under the auspices of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“CIETAC”). He rejected the Appellant’s arguments that the Superior Court of Justice erred in enforcing the award, including an argument that enforcement was improper given the Respondent’s previous attempt to pursue its claim before the Ontario Small Claims Court.

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Québec – No clean hands, no security despite stay of homologation application – #677

In Specter Aviation v United Mining Supply, 2022 QCCS 3643, Justice Castonguay granted a stay of an application by the successful party in a foreign arbitration to homologate the award, but denied the applicants’ alternative request for security, pending the unsuccessful party’s annulment application to the Paris Court of Appeal. Despite recognizing that a court should be reluctant to interfere with a successful party’s enforcement efforts, Justice Castonguay found that the annulment application was, “neither futile nor frivolous” and that the successful party did not have clean hands and had resorted to a self-help remedy. He also ordered costs against the successful party.

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