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On the benefit and otherwise of arbitration



For those contemplating arbitration as opposed to litigation, the observations of Heydon J in Westport Insurance Corporation v Gordian Runoff Ltd [2011] HCA 37 at [110] are apposite, namely:
The arbitration proceedings began on 15 October 2004 when Gordian served points of claim. This appeal comes to a close seven years later. The attractions of arbitration are said to lie in speed, cheapness, expertise and secrecy. It is not intended to make any criticisms in these respects of the arbitrators, of Einstein J, or of the Court of Appeal, for on the material in the appeal books none are fairly open. But it must be said that speed and cheapness are not manifest in the process to which the parties agreed. A commercial trial judge would have ensured more speed and less expense. On the construction point it is unlikely that the arbitrators had any greater relevant expertise than a commercial trial judge. Secrecy was lost once the reinsurers exercised their right to seek leave to appeal. The proceedings reveal no other point of superiority over conventional litigation. One point of inferiority they reveal is that there have been four tiers of adjudication, not three. Comment on these melancholy facts would be superfluous.

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