Arbitration does not provide for legal aid or an exemption from paying costs. Some regard this as a disadvantage of alternative dispute resolution. One party's lack of funds to pay for its share of arbitration costs can indeed deprive it of its day in arbitration court. This issue recently came before the Warsaw Court of Appeals, which decided that a party's lack of funds to launch arbitration does not render the arbitration agreement defective.
The issue of arbitral tribunals' application of EU law is not new. In the 1990s the European Court of Justice (ECJ) established that a national court which receives an application to annul an arbitration award must grant such application if it considers that the award in question is contrary to EU law. In recent years, this issue was revived in investment arbitration and the ECJ's famous (or for many, infamous) Achmea judgment. A landmark decision of the Warsaw Court of Appeals is yet another chapter in this story.
The issue of an arbitral tribunal's jurisdiction over set-off claims that are not covered by an arbitration agreement is controversial, with the rules differing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In a recent judgment, the Warsaw Court of Appeals held that even if a set-off claim is based on an agreement that is outside the scope of an arbitration agreement, the tribunal must determine the set-off's effects on the main claim raised in the proceedings.
Parties which lose in arbitration often continue to fight off a claim before a state court in post-arbitral proceedings, despite not having a strong case. This provides a double benefit for Polish arbitration practice: not only are a vast majority of these attempts defeated, but the Supreme Court also has a chance to confirm its pro-arbitration approach. One recent decision underlines that the mere fact that the reasoning of an arbitral award is concise is insufficient grounds to vacate the award.
The Supreme Court has previously opted for both a broad and a narrow understanding of res iudicata in Polish arbitration law. In a recent judgment, the court again leaned towards a narrow understanding of to what degree an arbitral tribunal is bound by a previous award. The decision should be a caveat for all participants in the Polish legal market that they should play until the whistle is blown.