Fox v Wellfair Ltd: CA 1981

An expert arbitrator should not in effect give evidence to himself without disclosing the evidence on which he relies to the parties, or if only one to that party. He should not act on his private opinion without disclosing it. It is undoubtedly true that an expert arbitrator can use his own expert knowledge. But a distinction is made in the cases between general expert knowledge and knowledge of special facts relevant to the particular case. The arbitrator’s function is not to supply evidence for the parties but to adjudicate upon the evidence given before him. He can and should use his special knowledge so as to understand the evidence that is given – the letters that have passed – the usage of the trade – the dealings in the market – and to appreciate the worth of all that he sees upon a view. But he cannot use his special knowledge – or at any rate he should not use it – so as to provide evidence on behalf of the defendants which they have not chosen to provide for themselves. For then he would be discarding the role of an impartial arbitrator and assuming the role of advocate for the defaulting side. At any rate he should not use his own knowledge to derogate from the evidence of the plaintiffs’ experts – without putting his own knowledge to them and giving them a chance of answering it and showing that his view is wrong.
Dunn LJ: ‘If the expert arbitrator, as he may be entitled to do, forms a view of the facts different from that given in the evidence which might produce a contrary result to that which emerges from the evidence, then he should bring that view to the attention of the parties. This is especially so where there is only one party and the arbitrator is in effect putting the alternative case for the party not present at the arbitration.
Similarly if an arbitrator as a result of a view of the premises reaches a conclusion contrary to or inconsistent with the evidence given at the hearing, then before incorporating that conclusion in his award he should bring it to the attention of the parties so that they may have an opportunity of dealing with it.’


Lord Denning MR, Dunn LJ


[1981] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 514


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedCheckpoint Ltd v Strathclyde Pension Fund CA 6-Feb-2003
The tenants sought to challenge the arbitrator’s award setting the rent payable under the lease. They claimed that he had improperly refered to his own experience of the market, to support his decision, and this committed a serious irregularity . .
CitedCarillion Construction Ltd v Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd CA 16-Nov-2005
The parties had disputed payments for subcontracting work on a major project. The matter had been referred to arbitration, and the claimants now appealed refusal of leave to appeal the adjudicator’s award.
Held: The dispute was complex and . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.179793