We had an opportunity to travel to Paris last summer to defend one of our clients in an international arbitration proceeding, for which we recently received a favorable outcome. Traveling with us was our associate, Scott Machnik, who was an invaluable asset in the defense of the case. His fiancée, Rachael Miller, who turned out to be a match to my wife Connie’s shopping acumen also came with us. After the arbitration was completed we were able to remain in Paris for a very nice vacation.
The final hearing went very well and our client was extremely pleased with the result. Because there is no right of appeal, the matter has been completely closed.
The international arbitration was conducted under the auspices of the International Court of Arbitration (“ICA”) which is a part of the International Chamber of Commerce. The contract between the parties specified the use of the ICA arbitration process and further required that the final hearing take place in Paris, France. An international arbitration is quite different from those we have done under the American Arbitration Association.
An initial Demand for Arbitration is filed and an arbitrator is appointed by the ICA without input from the parties. In our case, the arbitrator was an English lawyer who practiced law in Paris with a large international firm. One of the initial issues to be determined was which language was to be used throughout the arbitration process. The other side had initially retained French lawyers who wanted the arbitration to be in French. We successfully argued that English should be used because the agreement was in English and that the parties had corresponded and communicated with each other in English.
The next step is preparation of the Terms of Reference which set the general parameters of the claims and defenses and a schedule for document production, submission of written evidence and the date of the final hearing. One interesting aspect of this case was that while it was conducted under the procedural rules of the ICA, the contract called for the application of Florida law.
One of the primary differences in the international arbitration process is that all direct evidence is submitted in writing. The Claimant files a Statement of Claim setting forth all of the facts and arguments in support of the claim and copies of all documentary evidence and citations to case law. The Respondent then files its Response to the Statement of Claim with its supporting arguments, documents and case law. The parties may then respond to each others’ claims and defenses. The next step is submission of witness statements, which is the direct testimony of each side’s witnesses.
Because all evidence in an arbitration proceeding under the ICA is submitted in writing prior to the final hearing, no further direct evidence is permitted. The purpose of the final hearing is solely to provide the opportunity for cross-examination of the other side’s witnesses.
This was one of the most interesting cases we’ve ever done and a great experience in international law.