Unilateral option clauses provide for disputes to be referred to arbitration, but give one party the exclusive right to elect to refer a dispute to litigation before the courts; the clauses also provide for disputes to be referred to a court, but give one party the exclusive right to elect to refer the dispute to arbitration instead. Parties should exercise caution when considering whether to include unilateral option clauses in their agreements.
The Court of Appeal recently considered for the first time the question of an expert's duty to avoid a conflict of interest. The court's decision, while not deciding the point finally, means that it is unlikely that a court will now recognise such a duty as a matter of law. The issue is a matter of contract. The judgment contains a useful analysis of when conflicts can arise in related cases and the circumstances in which a large organisation offering expert or litigation support services may find itself conflicted.
The Supreme Court recently unanimously upheld a Court of Appeal decision to dismiss an application to remove an arbitrator on the grounds of apparent bias. The Supreme Court confirmed the Court of Appeal's decision that arbitrators are under a duty to disclose appointments in references concerning the same or overlapping subject matter with a common party, although the Supreme Court's reasoning differed.
The High Court recently granted an extension of time to bring challenges to arbitral awards made under the Arbitration Act. The applications were striking as it had been several years since the awards were made. While the extension granted by the court was exceptional, so too were the circumstances of the case. Here, the integrity of both the arbitration system and the court were threatened and this public policy concern outweighed the principle of finality.
The Supreme Court has clarified definitively the principles for ascertaining the law governing an arbitration agreement. In contrast to the Court of Appeal's earlier decision in the same case, the Supreme Court held that where the law governing an arbitration agreement is not expressly specified, a choice of main contract law (whether express or implied) will generally also apply to an arbitration agreement which forms part of that contract.
The High Court recently upheld an order that a petitioner should be restrained from proceeding with a winding-up petition on the basis that the petition debt in question was disputed by the alleged debtor and was subject to an arbitration agreement. The decision provides assurance that in the context of a winding-up petition, the court will consider the merits of a dispute relating to a petition debt which is subject to an arbitration agreement only in rare circumstances.
The High Court recently confirmed that the procedure for the registration and enforcement of an award made pursuant to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention does not require service of the claim form. The court upheld an order dispensing with service on a state of an order for the enforcement of an ICSID award. In addition, the court upheld an order for alternative service against the state.
The High Court recently dismissed a challenge to a previous decision to grant permission to enforce a Stockholm Chamber of Commerce award on the basis that contrary to the defendant's contention, there was a valid arbitration agreement between the parties and the defendant's arguments as to procedural irregularity had previously been raised in Swedish court proceedings, thereby giving rise to an issue estoppel.
In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal granted an anti-suit injunction restraining the defendants from pursuing Russian court proceedings in breach of a London arbitration clause. In reaching this decision, the court clarified the principles for ascertaining the law governing an arbitration agreement where the contract does not contain an express choice of such law and the main contract law differs from the law of the seat.
In a recent case, the High Court upheld the claimants' challenge to an award made under Section 68 of the Arbitration Act. Uncertainty as to the identities of the parties to an arbitration agreement and underlying contract had led a Chinese court to refuse to enforce the award. The High Court determined that there was uncertainty or ambiguity as to the award's effect and remitted the award to the tribunal.
The Court of Appeal recently considered whether Section 44(2)(a) of the Arbitration Act empowers the courts to issue orders for taking the evidence of a witness who is resident in the United Kingdom but not a party to an arbitration agreement. The judgment offers much-needed guidance for parties which have identified non-party witnesses who hold potentially relevant evidence but are unwilling to give evidence voluntarily.
In a rare consideration of an investment treaty award, the High Court broadly interpreted the meaning of 'investor' and 'investment' in the bilateral investment treaty between the governments of South Korea and Iran. The decision is also interesting in its comment that the question of attribution is not a jurisdictional issue.
The Court of Appeal recently considered whether service of formal court documentation on a state party was a necessary requirement when seeking to enforce an arbitral award against it or whether service could be dispensed with in certain circumstances. The significant judgment will have implications for cases in which it may be very difficult to enact service of enforcement proceedings on a state through diplomatic channels.
The Court of Appeal has partly upheld, and partly dismissed, an injunction granted by the High Court to restrain an arbitration seated in Lebanon. In so doing, the Court of Appeal has confirmed the English court's power to grant anti-arbitration injunctions pursuant to Section 37(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 in respect of a foreign-seated arbitration where the dispute does not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement and the proceedings are, or would therefore be, vexatious and oppressive.
The High Court recently granted an application for the adjournment of an arbitral award, pending the outcome of a challenge before the Paris Court of Appeal by a non-party to the arbitration agreement. The case provides a cautionary tale of the delays and additional costs that may be incurred if claimants fail to consider careful compliance with provisions on variations during the term of a contract and (at the outset of a dispute) which parties should be named as defendants.
A recent High Court decision concerning access to confidential documents illustrates the limits to the implied duty of confidentiality arising out of arbitration proceedings in English law. While the court was supportive of the general principle that arbitration proceedings are to be treated as confidential, it also demonstrated its willingness to depart from this general principle should one of the identified exceptions apply.
The High Court recently found that a tribunal had jurisdiction over a dispute that arose from a settlement agreement lacking an express arbitration clause. The decision serves as a reminder of the delays and additional costs that may be incurred if an agreement is unclear as to the applicable dispute resolution mechanism. Parties can reduce the risks of such delays and costs by including an express dispute resolution clause in settlement agreements.
The High Court recently considered whether service of formal court documentation on a state party is a necessary requirement when seeking to enforce an arbitral award against it or whether service can be dispensed with. The courts' unique approach to disputes involving state defendants is shaped not only by the applicable statutes, such as the State Immunity Act 1978, but also by the diplomatic considerations that feature prominently in investor-state cases.
The High Court recently examined the process for the summary dismissal of a challenge to an arbitral award on the grounds of serious irregularity. Mr Justice Males held that the purpose of oral hearings on summary dismissal is to determine only whether there is a real prospect of the challenge succeeding. Going beyond that would frustrate the objective of the summary dismissal mechanism.
The High Court recently examined an application by Ukraine to set aside an enforcement award following a disputed arbitration award. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that any agreement being entered into with a state party contains carefully drafted arbitration provisions and appropriately worded waiver of immunity language to ensure that the dispute resolution regime is fit for purpose.