Arbitration and choice of forum clauses

The Court of first instance of Milan addressed in its decision No. 7692 of 26 November 2020 (Italian text available here) the issue arising out of the coexistence, within the same contract, of an arbitration clause and a choice of forum clause.

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Liquidated damages, termination and arbitration

Arbitrability of disputes arising out of the termination of a contract: in my opinion, this is a very interesting topic, both for its theoretical and practical consequences.  In fact, I have already addressed this topic, a few months ago (in this post), in relation to contractual restitutions, commenting a decision by the Court of Milan that in my view misapplied the principles governing the matter.

A recent decision issued by the Court of first instance of Rome (No. 1695 of 27 January 2020, Italian text available here) gives me the chance to examine again the topic, from a partially different point of view.

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Pre-contractual liability and arbitration

Pre-contractual liability, under Italian law, is a form of tort liability.  In a nutshell (and with some degree of approximation), it concerns cases similar to those provided for by English Misrepresentation Act 1967, as well as other cases falling outside the scope of the said Act involving a breach of the duty to act in good faith during the negotiations aimed at entering into a contract.

In this respect, a topic of great interest is that of the enforceability of the arbitration agreement possibly contained in the contract in case of pre-contractual claims (or tort claims related to the negotiation, the execution and the fulfilment of the contract).

I have already written some posts concerning that topic (available, for example, here and here) and an article of mine will be published soon in the Italian law review Danno e Responsabilità.

A recent decision issued by the Court of first instance of Milan (No. 58 of 8 January 2020, Italian text available here) addressed the same topic.  In my opinion, such decision is really impressive, both for its detailed and thorough grounds and for the conclusions it reached.

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Contractual restitutions and arbitration

A recent decision issued by the Court of first instance of Milan (decision No. 7884 of 22 August 2019, Italian text available here) concerns the relationship between contractual restitutions and arbitration.

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Arbitration and tort claims

Italian Arbitration Law, as amended in 2006, expressly provides for the parties to enter into an arbitration clause concerning their possible tort disputes.  Indeed, Article 808(b) of Italian Code of Civil Procedure, as enacted by 2006 reform, sets forth that “The parties may establish, in a specific agreement, that future disputes relating to one or more specific non-contractual relations be decided by arbitrators (…).

There are only a few reported cases concerning Article 808(b) of Italian Code of Civil Procedure, and therefore it appears that that tool is rarely used.  Nonetheless, it could be very helpful: for instance, in the case of related actions, it could prevent the doctrine of “parallel paths” from applying.

A recent decision of the Italian Supreme Court (Supreme Court, VI Civil Chamber, decision no. 20673 of 13 October 2016, Italian text available here) deals with that matter. As far as I know, it is the first decision issued by the Italian Supreme Court concerning the construction of Article 808(b) of Italian Code of Civil Procedure.

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Preliminary agreement and arbitration clause

An arbitration clause stipulated in the preliminary agreement (that is, a kind of agreement to agree, which is enforceable under Italian law) was not included in the final agreement. In any case, the disputes concerning the later have to be referred to the Arbitral Tribunal. This was the ruling of the Court of Appeal of Venice (decision no. 2361 of 12 October 2015 of the I Civil Chamber of the Appeals Court of Venice, Italian text available here).

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Construction of the arbitration clause contained in the Articles of association

In its decision no. 10610 of 22 September 2015, the Court of first instance of Milan declared its lack of jurisdiction on the challenge of a resolution of a cooperative company. The Court used a broad construction of the arbitration clause contained in the company’s Articles of association. The Italian full text of the decision is available here.

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Arbitration and shareholders’ loan

If an arbitration clause is stipulated in the company’s Articles of association, disputes between a former shareholder and the company, concerning the repayment of a shareholders’ loan, shall be referred to an Arbitral Tribunal. This is, in a nutshell, the rationale of decision no. 18316 of 17 September 2015 of the Third Civil Chamber of the Court of first instance of Rome (the Italian full text is available here).

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Construction of arbitration clause

The wording of the arbitration clause should be carefully selected, as it constitutes the basis of the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal.  A possible wrong wording will not always be emended, once the dispute has arisen.

Nevertheless, it is commonplace that due attention is not devoted to this clause, either because it is inserted at the last minute in an agreement (known as the “midnight clause” effect), or because the agreement is reached after long negotiation on its commercial terms, underestimating the risk of a possible dispute.

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