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University of Nottingham v Fishel [2000] I.C.R. 1462

University of Nottingham v Fishel [2000] I.C.R. 1462

Bell Lax acted for the defendant, Dr Fishel. The case sets an important precedent regarding contracts of employment and the fiduciary duties associated with such.

The defendant was employed full time by Nottingham University as a scientific director of its infertility clinic. Nottingham University claimed that the defendant was in breach of his contract of employment by undertaking paid work at private clinics without Nottingham University's authorisation.

Furthermore, the claimant alleged that the defendant was also in breach of his fiduciary duty by receiving remuneration for organising the supply of other trained embryologists employed by Nottingham University to those clinics.

The claim was only allowed only in part. The defendant had only breached a specific fiduciary duty by receiving payment for directing his trainees to work outside the university for his own interests.

Bell Lax successfully argued that an employment relationship was not normally considered fiduciary and therefore, an employee's fiduciary duty not to pursue his own interests only arose where the employee was under a specific contractual duty to act only in the interests of his employer. The defendant was not obliged to inform Nottingham University that he was undertaking external work and did not breach his contract of employment by failing to do so.