Arbitrators in Deepwater | ZFZ Postcard Cases

Major news for arbitration law today. The UK Supreme Court published Halliburton v Chubb.

The appeal relates to the discovery that the arbitrator was appointed in two other references relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. This raised questions as to the arbitrators’ duty to disclose circumstances that may give rise to justifiable doubts on impartiality.

Halliburton argued English law should apply a “gold standard” for impartiality tests. That is, arbitrators should not accept appointments in multiple references involving overlapping issues and only one common party without giving disclosure.

In response Chubb argued that in the maritime and insurance field it was common for arbitrators to be routinely appointed in multiple arbitrations and that impartiality does not necessarily mean independence.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal concluding the arbitrator would not have been removed on the grounds of apparent bias under the Arbitration Act 1996. A fair minded and informed observer would consider that in certain fields there are varying degrees of expected independence and benefits to having an arbitrator who is involved in multiple related arbitrations.

Read more on the decision here.