Chandra Desai served as doctoral, research and academic advisor and professor to Manu Dube, a University of Arizona graduate student. While a graduate student, Dube also performed contract work for Desai and his company, C. Desai, Inc. In the context of his employment with the company, Dube detected problems with a program developed by Desai and licensed to the company. When Desai rejected Dube’s proposed solutions, Dube focused his dissertation on undermining Desai’s program. Desai subsequently submitted negative comments on Dube’s prior employment, behavior, and dissertation to the committee considering Dube’s doctoral candidacy and accused Dube of plagiarism. Dube sued Desai for tortious interference with business relationships and expectancies.
The trial court granted summary judgment to Desai based on Dube’s failure to comply with the notice-of-claim statute, A.R.S. § 12-821.01, which requires that claims against public employees acting within the scope of employment first be filed with a representative of the entity within one hundred eight days after the cause of action accrues.
The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed, rejecting Dube’s claim that because Desai’s comments to the committee were motivated, in part, to protect Desai’s company, Desai was not acting in the course and scope of his employment. Actions incidental to Desai’s work for the University – including commenting on the viability of Dube’s candidacy for a doctoral degree – were within the authorized scope of Desai’s employment even if they also had the effect of benefiting Desai’s private company.
Presiding Judge Howard authored the opinion, with Chief Judge Pelander and Judge Brammer concurring.