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Singaporean Court upheld arbitration agreement in COT v COU & Ors [2023] SGHC 69

Singaporean Court upheld arbitration agreement in COT v COU & Ors [2023] SGHC 69

In COT v COU & Ors the Claimant commenced an arbitration in the SIAC for breach of contract where the tribunal held that the Respondents were jointly and severally liable. The Respondents then applied to set aside the award before the Singaporean High Court (“the Court”) on the grounds of amongst others, the validity of the arbitration agreement, jurisdictional issue, and breach of natural justice.

In dismissing the application to set aside the award, the Singapore High Court held that:

a.       Even though the underlying contract contained some terms that were made orally vide discussions                    between the parties and the other terms in writing, a valid and binding contract was formed between                  the parties which included an agreement to arbitrate. Thus, the arbitration agreement was valid.

b.       The arbitration tribunal’s findings fell well within the terms and scope of the submission to arbitration                 i.e. whether a contract was formed and the terms of the contract. Further, a court hearing a                                   jurisdictional challenge should not adopt an overly technical or formal approach to ascertaining the                   scope of the submission to arbitration. The Court concluded that the tribunal did not depart from the                 central matter which the Claimant had submitted to arbitration.

c.        The Respondents’ argument that they were unable to present their case is unfounded as the                                 Respondents took a tactical decision to press on with their closing submissions without addressing                   the items under review now, despite having had sufficient and reasonable notice of it, hoping that the                 tribunal would uphold the jurisdictional objection.

Singaporean Courts have once again demonstrated their pro-arbitration stance and are only willing to set aside arbitral awards on certain rather narrow grounds. In this case, the Court applied a generous approach in upholding the arbitration agreement through the principle of formation of the contract and refused to set aside the award made by SIAC.

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