England – Court clarifies requirements for validly appointing arbitrators – #646

As our readers know, Canadian courts have been generating a wealth of jurisprudence on many international arbitration-related issues of late. However, there are still some lacunae in Canadian jurisprudence, which courts will often fill by referring to jurisprudence from other leading arbitral jurisdictions, including England and UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Article 2A(1) of the Model Law explicitly provides for this: “In the interpretation of this Law, regard is to be had to its international origin and to the need to promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith.” Because of this, Arbitration Matters will occasionally report on interesting cases from other jurisdictions which could be applied in Canada if the issue were to present itself here. One such case made our radar this week, because it deals with an issue that is seldom fought about in Canada: whether an arbitrator was validly appointed. In ARI v. WXJ, [2022] EWHC 1543 (Comm), Justice Foxton of the English Commercial Court rejected the Claimant’s argument that the Respondent’s appointee was invalidly appointed, and that the arbitrator appointed by the Claimant should therefore decide the dispute as sole arbitrator.

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Québec – 10-year limitation for foreign award recognition and enforcement– #644

In Itani v. Société Générale de Banque au Liban SAL, 2022 QCCA 920, the Québec Court of Appeal (Schrager, Moore, and Kalichman JJA) considered the limitation period for recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award rendered outside Québec. The Court applied the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Yugraneft Corp. v. Rexx Management Corp., 2010 SCC 19, confirming that recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award is governed by the rules of procedure applicable in the territory in which the application is made―so it differs from province to province. The Court of Appeal considered the applicable provisions of the Québec Civil Code and ruled that the application to recognize and enforce the arbitral award was subject to a 10-year limitation period, upholding the decision of Justice Poulin at first instance.

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British Columbia: – Court partially stays class action related to videogame “loot boxes” – #639

In Petty v Niantic Inc., 2022 BCSC 1077, Justice Mayer stayed a proposed class action in favour of arbitration, except in respect of claims advanced under B.C.’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act [BPCPA]. He rejected the Representative Plaintiffs’ arguments that the arbitration agreements were null and void for unconscionability and/or violating B.C. public policy. He also applied the competence-competence principle, holding the arbitral tribunal should decide first as to its jurisdiction over claims based on the Competition Act where the parties’ contract provided for California law.

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Ontario – Motion to “compel” participation in arbitration dismissed, despite arbitration clause – #635

In Black & McDonald v. Eiffage Innovative Canada Inc., 2022 ONSC 1855, Justice Dow was faced with two motions: (1) the defendants’ motion to stay the Ontario action on the basis of forum non conveniens; and (2) the plaintiff’s motion to “compel” the defendants to participate in arbitration as a result of an arbitration clause contained in the relevant contract. Justice Dow granted the stay on the ground that British Columbia was the proper forum, but declined to “compel” the defendants to participate in arbitration. He found that whether the arbitrator had jurisdiction over the dispute was to be determined by the arbitrator at first instance and that any failure on the part of the defendants to participate in an arbitration would have consequences for them in that proceeding.

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Québec – Court prevents “improper attempt to circumvent” final ICC award – #634

In Eurobank Ergasias v. Bombardier inc., 2022 QCCA 802, a majority of the Québec Court of Appeal (Mainville and Baudouin, JJ.A.): (1) confirmed the homologation of an ICC Arbitral Tribunal Final Award (“Final Award”); (2) confirmed the trial judge’s decision that a Québec bank did not have to pay under a Letter of Counter-Guarantee that was called upon, the purpose of which was the evasion of the binding ICC arbitration process; and (3) overturned the trial judge’s decision to direct the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence (“HMOD”), a branch of the Greek government,  to comply with the Final Award because HMOD was not an entity domiciled in Québec and homologation is for the purpose of rendering the Final Award legally binding in Québec, not in Greece.

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Ontario – “Vigorous” intervention and “difficult”, “incisive” questions by arbitrator not bias – #632

In Dufferin v Morrison Hershfield, 2022 ONSC 3485, Justice Woodley dismissed an application made pursuant to sections 13(6) and 15(1) of the Ontario Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17, for an order removing an arbitrator on the basis that, “circumstances exist which give rise to justifiable doubts about the Arbitrator’s independence and impartiality, which are alleged to give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”. Essentially, the allegations were that the arbitrator had “entered the fray” because of the many questions he asked the witnesses, pre-judged the issues, and become an advocate for the Respondent. Justice Woodley found that the arbitrator was interventionist, but that she could find no bias or a reasonable apprehension of bias; “instead, [she] found a deeply invested, engaged Arbitrator that worked tirelessly for the parties in furtherance of his mandate, which was to determine the truth of the issues before him”. The Applicants were not out of time to bring their application because the alleged conduct complained of was “cumulative”. In any event, it would be “nonsensical” to allow a partial arbitrator to continue, even if the Respondent had not objected in time.

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