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OCA says U.S. rabbinical court’s decision is binding

A recent Ontario Court of Appeal (OCA) decision is relevant to courts around the world that use Model Law, Toronto litigator and commercial arbitrator Marvin Huberman tells Law Times.

At issue, says Huberman, one of the lawyers who represented the appellants, was whether the arbitration award of an American rabbinical court was binding and should be recognized and enforced in Ontario.

The case centres around a New York appellant and an Ontario respondent who had a falling-out in 2005 over a joint real estate venture, which included two Ontario shopping malls, explains the Law Times' article.

After years of attempted resolution, the parties agreed to try arbitration and the case was heard by a rabbinical court in Brooklyn, says the publication.

The arbitration agreement provided that the court was a tribunal subject to the International Commercial Arbitration Act, and while the proceeding took place in New York, the case was seated in Ontario, says Law Times.

The OCA decided that the award presented by the tribunal was “binding,” despite new issues that arose after the award was issued in 2013, says the article.

Huberman, who is a Chartered Arbitrator and is also certified as a specialist in civil litigation by the Law Society of Ontario, says the case focused on whether an international commercial arbitration award is binding in Ontario.

He says the ruling follows the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) Model Law.

“The overall theme is that if the parties have agreed to arbitrate their cases in front of an arbitral tribunal, that’s where they are going to go. And the courts are going to take a hands-off approach for the most part, unless there are circumstances, statutes or otherwise, which dictate judicial involvement. That’s generally the starting point now, and that’s beyond question,” says Huberman.

By enforcing the rabbinical court’s award as binding, the decision also reflects that Canada is “pro-enforcement” when it comes to these types of cases, he says.

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