The underlying case concerned the 2010 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, when a well which was in the process of being plugged and temporarily abandoned, experienced a blow out. The appellant, Halliburton, provided cementing and well-monitoring services to BP in relation to the temporary abandonment of the well. Halliburton made a claim on its liability insurance against Chubb; however, Chubb refused to pay Halliburton's claim, contending, among other things, that Halliburton's settlement of the claims was not reasonable and that Chubb had not consented to the settlement.

At the coverage dispute arbitration between Halliburton and Chubb, two arbitrators were appointed on behalf of Halliburton and Chubb respectively. The third arbitrator, however, was Chubb's preferred candidate. While the third arbitrator disclosed to Halliburton that he had acted, and was currently acting, as an arbitrator in multiple arbitrations involving Chubb, he did not disclose that he was serving as an arbitrator appointed by Chubb in two other disputes involving Transocean, the owner of the rig in this case. As such, in both instances, the third arbitrator heard similar or identical arguments by Chubb. Upon learning of this information, Halliburton issued a claim form seeking that the third arbitrator be removed. But the claim form was subsequently dismissed, and Chubb went on to win the arbitration against Halliburton.

Among several issues on appeal was "[w]hether and to what extent an arbitrator may accept appointments in multiple references concerning the same or overlapping subject matter with only one common party without thereby giving rise to an appearance of bias." On this question, the Court reasoned that "the mere fact that an arbitrator accepts appointments in multiple references concerning the same or overlapping subject matter with only one common party does not of itself give rise to an appearance of bias." With regard to the requirement, if any, of disclosure, the Court reiterated the English law principle that the required disclosure was "facts or circumstances which would or might lead the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, to conclude that there was a real possibility that the arbitrator was biased."

Applying these principles, the court was persuaded that "(1) the non-disclosed circumstance does not in itself justify an inference of apparent bias; (2) disclosure ought to have been made, but the omission was accidental rather than deliberate; (3) the very limited degree of overlap means that this is not a case where overlapping issues should give rise to any significant concerns; (4) the fair-minded and informed observer would not consider that mere oversight in such circumstances would give rise to justifiable doubts as to impartiality; and (5) there is no substance in Halliburton's criticisms of [the third arbitrator's] conduct after the non-disclosure was challenged or in the other heads of complaint raised by them." The court then affirmed the judgment, denied Halliburton's challenge, and declined to find a real possibility that the third arbitrator was biased. Halliburton Co. v. Chubb Bermuda Ins. Co. , Case No. [2018] EWCA Civ 817 (Royal Courts of Justice, Apr. 19, 2018).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.