The First civil chamber of the French Cour de cassation rendered its decision today in the famous case Tecnimont: whereas the Court of appeal of Reims had decided, on 2 November 2011, that the judge ruling on the annulment of an award is not bound by the admissibility time-limit of a challenge of an arbitrator brought before an arbitral institution, the Cour de cassation annuled this decision, stating that:
“The party which, knowingly, refrains from exercising, in the time-limit set out in the applicable arbitration rules, its right to challenge an arbitrator on the basis of any circumstance tending to call into question the independence or impartiality of an arbitrator, is deemed to have renounced to rely on it before the judge ruling on the annulment of the award, consequently, [the court of appeal] should have researched if, in relation to each of the facts and circumstances it characterized as constitutive of a breach of the arbitrator’s independence and impartiality, the 30-day time-limit given by the arbitration rules to exercise the right to challenge an arbitrator had, or not, been respected.”
The Cour de cassation thus reminds that the time-limit to challenge an arbitrator set out in the rules should be respected, failing which the parties renounce to rely on the facts when challenging the award.
The binding force of the applicable arbitration rules is confirmed.
This decision is also in line with the general trend in arbitration to require from the parties that they raise all procedural irregularities (see our post on the Honeywell vs. Meydan case here).
Hopefully, the Paris Court of appeal, before which the parties were sent, will also confirm this decision.
The decision is available here.