UK High Court Removes Arbitrator for Pre-Judging Expert Evidence

AM Editorial Team

In a recent case heard by the High Court, an arbitrator was removed from the arbitration proceedings due to pre-judging expert evidence. This case highlights the importance of impartiality, independence, and expertise of arbitrators in international arbitration.

The order was sought by an insurer in dispute over a £3m claim to cover the costs of a delay in the production of a film being made in Sweden after a stunt involving the lead actor went wrong. All the details of the case were anonymised.

The arbitrator, ‘W’, an experienced film producer but first-time arbitrator, was nominated by the British Film Institute after the parties could not agree on one.

. The arbitrator appointed by the parties was found to have made comments that suggested a pre-judgment of the expert evidence presented by the parties. This raised concerns about impartiality and bias, leading to the removal of the arbitrator.

Mr Justice Calver said it was one thing to express a preliminary view as to the merits of a dispute or the credibility of a witness after hearing the parties’ evidence.

“It is another matter altogether to express such a view, preliminary or otherwise, before even hearing the witnesses, based upon the extraneous fact of purporting to know a witness by reputation or acquaintance.”

The case also underscores the significance of expert witnesses and their reports in arbitration proceedings. The credibility and strength of expert evidence can have a significant impact on the outcome of the dispute. Therefore, it is crucial for arbitrators to carefully assess and evaluate the expert evidence presented by the parties, without any pre-judgment or bias.

The removal of the arbitrator highlights the effectiveness of the arbitration process in addressing legal issues and ensuring fairness and objectivity. The court’s order to remove the arbitrator was made in the public interest, emphasizing the importance of confidentiality and the power of attorneys in arbitration proceedings.

Overall, this case serves as a reminder of the importance of the code of conduct for arbitrators, their legal expertise, and the efficiency of the arbitration process in resolving construction disputes.