Polish Supreme Court order
dated 27 August 1982
Case No. II CR 214/82
Summary by arbitraz.laszczuk.pl:
In 1977, a Panamanian shipping company filed a claim with the International Court of Arbitration at the Polish Chamber of Maritime Commerce in Gdynia against two respondents (both apparently Czechoslovakian companies) seeking an award declaring that the claimant had entered into a contract to transport a shipment of petroleum via a certain ship. In their response, the respondents consented to resolution of the dispute by the arbitration court, which the court interpreted as a valid submission to arbitration in lieu of an arbitration agreement. During the proceeding, the claimant’s standing to assert the claim was challenged, and another company (apparently also from Panama) moved to join the proceeding as a co-claimant or substitute claimant.
In 1980, the arbitration court issued a ruling “dismissing” the claim by the original claimant, finding that it had no standing to bring the claim because it was not a party to any agreement with the respondents. Another party (apparently the co-claimant) was identified in the contract as the principal, and under English law (which was applicable) parol evidence was inadmissible to prove that the principal was a party other than the one identified in the written contract as the principal. The arbitration court also denied the motion to join the proceeding by the co-claimant because the Polish shipping agency supposedly authorized to represent it in the proceeding failed to submit a power of attorney to that effect.
In 1981, the claimant and the co-claimant filed a petition with the Gdańsk Province Court to set aside the ruling by the arbitration court, which they regarded as an arbitration award, on the ground that the arbitration court had violated certain of its own procedural rules when issuing the ruling. The court agreed and set aside the ruling. It also found that the ruling was inconsistent, because the operative wording denied the claim for declaratory relief, but the justification for the ruling concerned only the claimant’s standing to assert the claim and did not address the merits of the relief sought.
The province court held that it had jurisdiction, even though all the parties were foreign, because the award was issued in Poland by an international arbitration court with its seat in Poland.
The respondents sought review by the Polish Supreme Court of the judgment of the province court. The court pointed out that the ruling stated that it was issued in Prague. This was not a mistake, because the claimant had requested correction of the award in this respect and the arbitration court had denied the request. The arbitration hearings were held in Prague. The rules of the arbitration court provided that awards could be issued in Gdynia, but also in Warsaw, Berlin or Prague, as the capitals of the three countries (Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia) which had jointly established the International Court of Arbitration in Gdynia. Therefore, the court held, there were no grounds for the Polish courts to have jurisdiction over an action seeking to set aside the ruling. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the province court accordingly and dismissed the petition to set aside the award.
Excerpt from the text of the court’s ruling:
[In an action to set aside an arbitration award] a link that could justify domestic jurisdiction is issuance of the award in Poland, as such a ruling, when legally final, would become a domestic Polish ruling equivalent to a judgment of a Polish state court (Civil Procedure Code Art. 711 §2). However, the seat of an international arbitration court which may hear cases in the territory of other countries for which it was established will not serve as such a link.