B.C. – no special rules for self-represented parties in arbitration beyond natural justice

In 0941187 B.C. Ltd. v 0927613 B.C. Ltd., 2019 BCSC 1649, Mr. Justice Gregory T.W. Bowden dismissed a litigant’s attempt to dispute claims on the basis of an alleged estoppel arising from an earlier arbitral award.  Bowden J.’s brief treatment of the estoppel argument underlines that awards only resolve the issues submitted in the arbitration in which the awards was made.  The decision also refers back to an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal, involving the same parties, which held that, despite some latitude, no special rules apply for self-represented arbitral parties beyond basic natural justice requirements of an impartial arbitrator, notice, an opportunity to tender evidence, make representations and to respond to the other side’s case.

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B.C. – refusal to grant access to details of counsel billing qualified as denial of natural justice in costs award

In 0718698 B.C. Ltd. v. Ogopogo Beach Resorts Ltd., 2019 BCSC 1503, Mr. Justice S. Dev Dley remitted a costs awards back to the arbitrator so that the party ordered to pay 75% of actual legal fees would have a meaningful opportunity to challenge the other party’s counsel’s accounts.  Failure to order disclosure of counsel’s accounts qualified as a denial of natural justice because it prevented the party from undertaking an informed analysis of whether the fees were reasonable.

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B.C. – agreement to accept summary reasons is not acceptance of insufficient reasons

Despite the parties’ agreement that the arbitrator provide only summary reasons, Mr. Justice J. Christopher Grauer in Nolin v. Ramirez, 2019 BCSC 934 determined that the arbitrator’s brief reasons were insufficient to withstand review on a standard of reasonableness. Grauer J. held that even summary reasons require more than just a conclusion. Because he lacked jurisdiction to substitute his own decision for that of the arbitrator and, in the event, could not say that the arbitrator had gotten the issues wrong, he remitted the issues to the arbitrator for reconsideration. 

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B.C. – application to cancel certificate of pending litigation granted despite stay of litigation for arbitration

In 1077708 BC Ltd. v. Agri-Grow Farm Services Ltd., 2019 BCSC 977, Madam Justice Catherine Murray granted Defendants’ application to cancel and remove a Certificate of Pending Litigation despite a stay of litigation granted by consent on broad terms.  Murray J. noted that Plaintiff provided no authority requiring Defendants to first apply to lift the stay. She added that she saw “no logic or merit” in that requirement and held that Plaintiff was not prejudiced by having the court consider the application.

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B.C. – incorporation by reference of arbitration agreement a question of intent not category of contract

In MRC Total Build Ltd. v. F&M Installations Ltd., 2019 BCSC 765, Madam Justice Shelley C. Fitzpatrick determined that it was arguable that parties to one contract intended to incorporate by reference the arbitration provisions set out in another contract.  Relying on the actual wording of the contract between the parties, Fitzpatrick J. identified the court’s role as discerning the intention of the parties. She resisted applying a technical rule to interpreting contracts or categorizing contracts into one type or another as a proxy for intention.  Once the court finds that it is arguable that such an intention exists, and absent the arbitration agreement being incapable of being performed, the court must refer the matter to the arbitrator for determination.

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