If you've been wronged by an employee, and you feel like they've betrayed your trust, your first inclination might be to think that they may be liable to you for breach of fiduciary duty.

Is the Employer Entitled to Breach of a Fiduciary Duty?

In most cases, the answer - at least under New York law - is no; fiduciary relationships are only created in very limited circumstances. And here is another, very important tidbit of information: you can't (successfully) bring a breach of fiduciary claim if it is based on the same set of facts as a breach of contract claim. The two claims cannot successfully coexist.
So, if you want to know who is (and isn't) a fiduciary under New York law, you will need to answer the following question:

  • Does the relationship between the two parties inherently - or automatically - entail a higher level of trust than would normally exist between two parties to an agreement?

To help clarify this concept further, here are some examples where New York's courts have found fiduciary relationships to exist in the following circumstances. 

Examples of New York Court Fiduciary Relationships NY Non Compete Agreement Fiduciary Duty Claims Attorney

  • Financial advisors;
  • Corporate Officers and Directors;
  • Real Estate Brokers;
  • Business Partners; and (although my colleagues may be upset with my admission here),
  • Attorneys.

One of the trickier elements of a breach of fiduciary duty claim (other than its mutual exclusivity from a breach of contract claim) is that there is no hard and set rule on how long you have to bring one of these claims; as noted in "How to Calculate the Statute of Limitations for a New York Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim," the time limit for these claims varies depending on the nature of the relief that is sought.

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In short, breach of fiduciary duty claims are rather complicated - at least in New York. Therefore, if you believe you may have a viable breach of fiduciary duty claim, it is rather important that you contact a qualified commercial litigation attorney to discuss this issue to assure that you make the right decision for your case.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer