Myriam’s 2022 Hot Topic: Procedural Fairness in International Arbitration – #704

“Out here, due process is a bullet”, said John Wayne’s Col. Kirby in The Green Berets

Due process. Procedural fairness. Natural justice. Audi alteram partem. These are all different ways of formulating one of the bedrock principles of “civilized” dispute resolution processes, which distinguishes such processes from the guerrilla justice dispensed on the battlefield. Parties must be treated fairly and equally. Parties must be given the opportunity to present their case. The process – taken as a whole – must be fair. 

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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 – High threshold to set aside international award for damages not met – #694

In Clayton v. Attorney General of Canada, 2022 ONSC 6583, Justice Akbarali rejected an attempt to set aside a damages award made by a three-member tribunal (the “Tribunal”) originally constituted under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”).  The applicants argued that the Tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction in respect of the legal standard to be applied, breached procedural fairness by refusing to admit certain expert evidence, and rendered an award that was contrary to public policy. Citing previous jurisprudence on the high thresholds to be met for each of these grounds to succeed – thresholds consistent with deference to arbitral tribunals, – Justice Akbarali found no errors had be committed. She dismissed the application.

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Ontario – Leave to appeal award application and appeal dismissed together – #692

In The Tire Pit Inc. v Augend 6285 Yonge Village Properties Ltd., 2022 ONSC 6763, Justice Vermette dismissed an application for leave to appeal an award and the appeal itself. The grounds of appeal did not raise questions of law which were subject to appeal pursuant to subsection 45(1) of the Arbitration Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 17 (“Act”) and had no importance beyond the parties. In any event, if she was wrong, she found that they lacked merit.

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Ontario – Arbitrator no jurisdiction to hear challenge for bias after partial final award – #691

In Aroma Franchise Company, Inc. v Aroma Espresso Bar Canada Inc., 2022 ONSC 6188, Justice Cavanagh dismissed the Respondents’ motion to stay or dismiss an application to set aside a final award on the merits on the ground of the reasonable apprehension of bias of the Arbitrator. The Respondents argued that the Applicant was required to bring its challenge to the Arbitrator first in accordance with Article 13 of the Model Law because the arbitration had not yet terminated; interest and costs had yet to be determined. However, Justice Cavanagh found that the Arbitrator was functus officio. Therefore, the application was properly before the Court.

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Ontario – Narrow basis for excess jurisdiction set aside challenges reaffirmed – #688

In Mensula Bancorp Inc. v. Halton Condominium Corporation No. 137, 2022 ONCA 769, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a Superior Court set aside decision and restored an arbitral award. The Court reiterated and underscored directives from  Alectra Utilities Corporation v. Solar Power Network Inc., 19 ONCA 254: There is a narrow basis for set aside challenges to arbitral awards on the ground  of alleged excess of jurisdiction. Review of the substance of the arbitral award is not authorized. The correctness or reasonableness of the arbitrator’s decision is irrelevant. Set aside is not an appeal.

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