Quebec – No abuse of process where parallel arbitration and court proceedings – #815

In Gaston Gagné inc. c. Gagné, 2023 QCCS 4552, the Court confirmed that arbitration clauses should receive a broad and liberal interpretation, dismissed an application to annul a final arbitral award, homologated the award, and dismissed a claim in damages based on an alleged abuse of process by the party opposing homologation. Even though one party decided to bring court proceedings on the same issue he put before the arbitrator, there was no abuse of process because his court proceeding did not impede the arbitration.

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Québec – No revocation of a homologated award without the prior revocation of the judgment – #812

In Investissements Immobiliers MB inc. v. SMP Direct inc., 2023 QCCS 4526, the Superior Court dismissed the application of Investissements Immobiliers MB inc (“Plaintiff”) to partially revoke a judgment homologating an arbitration award. In her decision, the Judge ruled that the Plaintiff had delayed acting without justifying the delay and that the application for revocation of the homologating judgment had no reasonable chance of success. The background is complicated. The application followed multiple proceedings between the court and the Arbitrator. The Plaintiff (Claimant in the Arbitration) applied to the court to annul the arbitration award on the basis that the Arbitrator had exceeded his jurisdiction. Then, before that application was decided, the Plaintiff returned to the Arbitrator for revocation of the award based on the fact that there was subsequent information that he had not considered that would affect the result. The Arbitrator refused to hear Plaintiff’s demand before the Court ruled on the Plaintiff’s annulment application. The Court homologated the award. Plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal was dismissed. The Arbitrator then dismissed the application for revocation. He found that the Court must revoke the homologating judgment first, which made the issues ruled in the arbitration award revocation issue because the homologating judgment give the award the force of res judicata. The Plaintiff’s later return to the court to revoke the homologating judgment was too late – five months later. The lesson? An arbitrator has no jurisdiction to revoke an award that has been homologated in a court judgment.

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Jim Reflects (2023): Browne v Dunn is just a rule of fairness: a comment on the Vento case – #810

I’ll take Vento Motorcycles, Inc. v. United Mexican States 2023 ONSC 5964 (Vento) as my top pick for 2023. It’s a reminder that just because the strict rules of evidence may not apply in an arbitration doesn’t mean the rationale for some of those rules should be ignored. In this case, it was an alleged breach of the rule in Browne v Dunn, the very rule all Commonwealth litigators had beaten into their heads by their professors, their principals, or, for some of the less fortunate among us, a judge. At heart Browne v Dunn is about fairness, and ensuring fairness is a, perhaps the, cornerstone of arbitration.  

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Timothy Reflects (2023): Are arbitral tribunals soft targets for bad actors? – #809

This case note reflects on emerging procedural and systemic vulnerabilities of arbitration, a timely and important topic in light of the recent decision of the High Court of England and Wales in  Process & Industrial Development v Federal Republic of Nigeria, [2023] EWHC 2638 (Comm) (“P&ID v Nigeria”). In that case, Justice Robin Knowles remarked: 

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Chris Reflects (2023): Arbitrator Bias and the Unanimous Award – #807

When will a court confirm a unanimous arbitral award issued by a three-person panel where one of those arbitrators was biased? This case note reviews three cases that try to answer that question. In each, the Court applied the Model Law. In one recent casethe Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the award, finding that the bias did not cause actual prejudice. The other two cases, one from India, the other from Germany, reached the opposite conclusion, highlighting the pernicious, and often unseen, effect that bias can have on the deliberative process.  

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Stephanie Reflects (2023): What’s the Standard? Reviews, Appeals and “Decisions of the Matter” – #806

For better or for worse, parties can challenge arbitral decisions through multiple avenues, whether through a review of a preliminary jurisdictional ruling, set-aside application, or appeal. Arbitration case law in 2023 highlighted a striking lack of consistency between the standards of review and appeal applied in each of these different avenues.

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Québec – Final Award on arbitrator’s own jurisdiction: what recourse(s)? – #797

In ADREQ (CSD) Estrie c. Centre intégré universitaire de santé et des services sociaux de l’Estrie – CHUS, 2023 QCCA 1315, the Court of Appeal granted leave  to appeal  a Superior Court decision dismissing an application for annulment of an arbitration award. The first instance Judge ruled that despite the fact that the arbitrator heard the whole case on the merits and decided in the final award that he had no jurisdiction, the award could not be contested under the annulment provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (sec. 648), but rather must be challenged under the provisions concerning an arbitrator’s ruling on their own jurisdiction (sec. 632). Because of the potential overlap between these provisions and because of the limited jurisprudence on their application, the Court of Appeal deemed that it was a subject of interest for the Court and granted the leave. 

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Ontario – No unfairness despite Browne v Dunn violation and arbitrator reasonable apprehension of bias – #796

In Vento Motorcycles, Inc. v. United Mexican States, 2023 ONSC 5964, the Court dismissed an application to set aside an investor-state arbitration award on the grounds that the arbitral tribunal denied procedural fairness, and that one of the tribunal members was biased. Although the Court found no unfairness, it acknowledged a reasonable apprehension of bias in respect of the impugned arbitrator. The Court nonetheless exercised its discretion under art. 34 of the Model Law to dismiss the set–aside application.

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Newfoundland and Labrador – Set-aside application denied where  award meets Vavilov reasonableness test – #793

In Zenda Mount Pearl Square Enterprises Limited Partnership v MP TEI Realty Limited Partnership, 2023 NLSC 142, the Applicant/Respondent in the arbitration applied to set aside an arbitral award arising from a dispute involving the contractual entitlement to refinancing proceeds that the Applicant/Respondent received as a result of a rogue transfer of funds. Section 14 of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arbitration Act, RSNL 1990, c A-14 (the “Arbitration Act”) gives the Court the authority to set aside an arbitral award if it finds that there was Arbitrator misconduct or the award was improperly procured. The Court held that the burden is on the applicant to show that the award is improper as a matter of fact, law, or mixed fact and law, and that the award falls outside out any potential reasonable outcome. The Court’s analysis and reasons looked at whether the decision of the Arbitrator was reasonable, applying Layman v Layman Estate, 2016 NLCA 13 (“Layman”). Focusing, in part, on the Arbitrator’s application of the principles of contract interpretation set out in Creston Moly Corp. v Sattva Capital Corp., 2014 SCC 53 (“Sattva”), the Court concluded that the Arbitrator’s decision to divide the proceeds equally between the parties was reasonable based on the terms of the parties’ agreements. The Court dismissed the set-aside application on the basis that the decision of the Arbitrator, in respect of all of the grounds reviewed by the Court, was reasonable. This case has application to the review (including on set-asides) of arbitration decisions on the basis of reasonableness and the contractual interpretation of commercial agreements. 

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Quebec – Streamlined procedures do not deny party’s ability to its present case – #792

In Gagnon c. Truchon, 2023 QCCA 1053, the Quebec Court of Appeal declined leave to appeal the Superior Court’s earlier decision to dismiss an application to annul an award and instead to enforce it. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Applicants had failed to establish “questions of principle” arising out of a “purement privé” fee dispute between the Applicants and their former lawyer. After failing to object to streamlined procedures selected by the Arbitration Council appointed by the Bureau du Québec, the Applicants could not later complain that they were denied the opportunity to present their case.

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