Separability presumption is universally applied, as the relevant doctrine spread all over the world during the first half of XX century.
In the words of Italian lawmakers, “The validity of the arbitration clause must be evaluated independently of the underlying contract” (Article 808, para. 2, of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure).
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A contract contains an arbitration clause whereby the parties’ disputes are referred to arbitration. Notwithstanding the said clause, a party sues the other party in State Court. The respondent objects to the Court’s jurisdiction, on the basis of the arbitration clause, but the Court issues a wrong decision, rejects the objection and upholds its jurisdiction. In such a case, what is the appellate Court that the respondent should seize to have the first decision overturned?
Two recent decisions, issued a day apart by two different Courts of Appeal (decision of the Court of Appeal of Catanzaro No. 1782 of 19 September 2019, Italian text available here; and decision of the Court of Appeal of Potenza No. 636 of 20 September 2019, Italian text available here), offer two different answers to the above question: the Court of Appeal of Catanzaro holds that the appeal has to be submitted to the Court of Appeal, while the Court of Appeal of Potenza states that it has to be filed with the Italian Supreme Court. Both decisions are correct because they concern two different kinds of arbitration proceedings.
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A recent ruling of the Court of first instance of Genoa (decision no. 1325 of 14 April 2016, Italian text available here) deals with the issues of the objection of arbitration and its characterisation and construction.
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The Court of first instance of Rome (decision no. 19215 of 28 September 2015, Italian text available here) ruled in a complex case concerning the relationship between a limited liability company and its former director. First of all, the company sued the former director before the Court, claiming his liability. In a second case (the case of the decision at hand), the former director requested the Court to issue a payment order against the company, in order to obtain the amounts allegedly owed to him. The parties did not take into account the arbitration clause stipulated in Article 26 of the Articles of association. This provision notes that “all controversies arising among the quotaholders or among the quotaholders and the company, the directors, liquidators and statutory auditors shall be settled by a sole arbitrator appointed by the President of the Certified Public Accountants Register of the place where the company has its registered office (….).” In the judicial proceedings commenced by the company, the former director objected that the Court did not have jurisdiction, due to the above mentioned arbitration clause. On its turn, the company raised this objection when challenging the payment order issued in favour of the former director.
Did the parties waive their right to arbitrate, by initiating Court proceedings?
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