Afridi & Angell inBrief
The dispute resolution clause in question, while containing the provisions regarding the number of arbitrators, the seat and the language of the arbitration, included language stating that any referral to arbitration will be ‘without prejudice’ to the jurisdiction of the UAE Courts and ‘subject to agreement between the parties’. The Court of Appeal recognized that parties may agree to arbitration as a method of dispute resolution, provided that it does not conflict with public order. However, in this case the Court of Appeal found that there was no evidence that an agreement was reached between the parties to resolve disputes through arbitration as set out in the dispute resolution clause, and that consequently the forum for dispute resolution is the Dubai Court.
This judgment highlights the need to have a carefully drafted dispute resolution clause, particularly where the parties wish to have disputes resolved through arbitration.
The principle that arbitration clauses must be interpreted narrowly is a well-established one, and the language that everything that may be waived or prevents its [i.e., the arbitration clause’s] application must be sought appears to have been used by the Dubai Court of Cassation as far back as in Petition No. 192 of 2007. This principle and precedent was part of a strategy successfully deployed by Afridi & Angell in a recent case before the Dubai Court of First Instance to argue that the Dubai Courts had jurisdiction over a dispute in which the plaintiff and one of the defendants had an arbitration agreement. The dispute in question arose from a real estate contract containing an arbitration clause. The developer at the time the contract was entered into had been replaced by the time the dispute arose, and the new developers were added as defendants to the court proceeding by the purchaser (our client). The court found that as the added parties did not have an arbitration agreement with the plaintiff, the court had jurisdiction over all of the defendants, notwithstanding that the plaintiff and the initial defendant had an agreement to resolve disputes through arbitration. ■Download inBrief as PDF