The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted the performance of contracts. Although the Paris Commercial Court has ruled the pandemic to be a force majeure event in a commercial contract, this characterisation may not be retained in all situations. This article provides helpful tips to keep in mind when analysing a contractual situation, in light of French law specificities that might be unknown to foreign companies or counsel involved in arbitration proceedings to which French law applies.
The First Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation recently overruled a Paris Court of Appeal decision and determined that there was no basis for the argument that Antrix Corporation Ltd had not made certain procedural objections during arbitration and therefore could not raise them in enforcement proceedings. The decision raises interesting questions about the nature of the 'waiver' contemplated in the Code of Civil Procedure.
The International Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal recently rendered five decisions on setting-aside proceedings against five awards issued in the same arbitration. It was alleged that the tribunal had been improperly constituted as a party-appointed arbitrator had failed to disclose information that affected his independence and impartiality. Although this decision confirms the existing jurisprudence, the question of the exact scope of arbitrators' duty to disclose remains.
The Paris Court of Appeal recently clarified the scope of application of Article 1466 of the Code of Civil Procedure and for the first time confirmed that Article 1466 can also limit a party's ability to seek annulment based on a variety of arguments, whether relating to procedural irregularities or otherwise, that could have been raised in the arbitration.
The Court of Cassation recently confirmed the quasi-absolute priority given to arbitral tribunals to determine questions relating to their jurisdiction, even when this involves rules of French public order. Although this is well established in French case law, it is the first time that the court has upheld an arbitration clause that conferred on a tribunal the statutory power to value shares in lieu of a party-appointed or judicially appointed expert.
In recent setting aside proceedings, The Hague Court of Appeal had to decide whether an arbitral award issued in proceedings under the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Rules had to be set aside due to the fact that the award was contrary to public policy. In its assessment, the court took a bold approach. The decision demonstrates that while the court is conscious of the competence and authority of arbitral tribunals, it will assess a case individually and fully when it comes to public policy.
In 2018 the government adopted its new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). Following this adoption, the government has now obtained the authorisation required to start the renegotiations with eight non-EU countries and conclude new BITs with two others. The government has made clear that the new model BIT is intended to serve as an opening offer that sets the scene for the negotiations. However, as each negotiation will have its own dynamic, it is difficult to predict what the new Dutch BITs will look like.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeal recently had to decide on an application for recognition and enforcement of an online arbitral award regarding a loan in bitcoins. To date, this has been a subject that the Dutch courts have seldom encountered. Notably, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal took a critical approach in what may be considered a test case for recognition and enforcement of online arbitral awards in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) recently introduced a new transparency policy, which aims to enhance the transparency of arbitral proceedings without harming their confidential nature. This is a promising step by the NAI, which will hopefully contribute to a more cost-effective, efficient and credible arbitration practice in the Netherlands.
In June 2018 a new arbitration court specialised in art-related disputes was launched in The Hague. The court, which offers an attractive and efficient dispute resolution mechanism for cross-border art-related disputes, was founded by the Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) in collaboration with Authentication in Art. According to the NAI's website, it has now started accepting arbitrator and mediator applications for the Court of Arbitration for Art.