I did say I was mopping up the queue this week so here’s a post reminding us of the Paris Court of Appeal overturning an earlier judgment which had held that an arbitrator’s liability falls within Brussels Ia. I have analysis and further reference to the first instance judgment here, and Gilles Cuniberti’s approving view on the Court of Appeal’s decision is here.
The ruling means the court of the locus arbitri, the curial seat as agreed between the parties, is the natural home for any subsequent disputes involving liability of the arbitrators. I agree with Gilles that this makes a lot of sense from a consolidation and neutrality point of view. I do not however feel for a moment that it clearly follows from Brussels Ia, including its arbitration recital (which has the trimmings of an encyclopaedia, weighing in at more than half a page and 4 paragraphs).
EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 184.108.40.206, para 2.110 ff..
Update 10 October 2022 In Decision no. 20-20.260 the French Supreme Court confirmed at the end of September 2022: as Reed Smith summarise, faced with an express choice of Paris as the seat of arbitration, and even where the contract is governed by English law, it is the substantive rules of French arbitration law which govern the validity, effectiveness, transfer or extension of the arbitration clause. (Unless parties have made an express choice of law applicable to the arbitration agreement).
Update 3 July 2020 for the opposite view in the same case, opting for the curial law as lex arbitri, see Paris Court of Appeal on 23 June 2020, discussed here. Quite the tale of conflicting views in the same case!
Thank you Filbert Lam for yet again flagging an important case. In  EWCA Civ 6 Kabab-Ji SAL v Kout Food Group Flaux LJ extensively discussed the application of Sulamerica as to the governing law of an arbitration agreement which provides for arbitration in Paris but which is contained in a main agreement which is expressly governed by English law; and as to whether the respondent became a party to the main agreement and/or the arbitration agreement notwithstanding the presence of No Oral Modification provisions in the main contract.
Parties’ choice of English law for the underlying contract was found to also be an express choice of the law governing the arbitration agreement. This meant there was no need to consider the implications (particularly viz a possible implied choice of law) of a choice of Paris as seat or other aspects of the Sulamérica test. Recognition and enforcement of the award which applied French law, was refused.
Jonathan Lim suggests here that the judgment is a departure from the understanding of separability in previous CA decisions, although the ensuing discussion on his feed also suggests that the factual interpretation of the clauses might suggest the exact opposite. I tend to agree with Jonathan: the generic nature of the clauses and the lack of (reported at least) other strong indications seem to suggest the finding of express choice of law was optimistic.
Update 12 May 2020 for a similarish issue see Prakash Steelage v UZUC 17/18001, with the Court of Appeal upholding a Panel’s application of UNIDROIT [update 20 July 2020 similar to a CIETAC application of Unidroit principles reported here], this time in the absence of choice of law by the parties. The case is reviewed here.
Thank you Thomas Kendra and Thibaud Roujou de Boubée for signalling 16/25484 Cameroon v Projet Pilote Garoubé at the Paris Court of Appeal end of December 2018. The essence of the case is the Court confirming an arbitral award applying OHADA law. OHADA stands for ‘Organisation pour l’harmonisation en Afrique du droit des affaires’ – ie the Organisation for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa.
Thomas and Thibaud analyse excellently – of note for this blog are the issue of non-State law as lex contractus (compare with Rome I), the recognition of same as trumping Cameronese law essentially as overriding mandatory law, and the rejection of the Cameronese argument that its wildlife laws qualify themselves as lois de police /overriding mandatory law and that the lack of recognition of same violates ordre public.
Interesting arbitration /conflicts material.