Tutor did not breach contract or duties by having his own business on the side: Court

Mr Eugene Toh, who was sued by a tuition centre he co-founded for allegedly moonlighting, has been cleared by the High Court. PHOTO: EUGENE TOH

SINGAPORE - A tutor, who was sued by a tuition centre he co-founded for allegedly moonlighting, has been cleared by the High Court.

On Wednesday (Nov 6), the court found that there was an agreement between Mr Eugene Toh, 31, and his business partner Keng Yew Huat, 51, for the tutor to carry on his own tuition business on the side.

TuitionGenius, a company set up by Mr Toh and Mr Keng, had sued its former star tutor for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties.

Mr Toh countersued the company, as well as Mr Keng and his son Jun Hao, 26.

He alleged that they conspired to cause him financial harm by starting the lawsuit and used his brand TuitionGenius after he left the centre.

In his written judgment, Justice Lee Seiu Kin largely dismissed the company's claims against Mr Toh and entirely dismissed Mr Toh's counterclaims.

Mr Toh started giving tuition lessons in 2007 while he was doing full-time national service and eventually became popular for his economics classes.

In April 2009, Mr Toh and Mr Keng, a family friend who runs a construction business, set up TuitionGenius, with two of them as directors and equal shareholders.

Classes for various subjects were held at centres in Clementi and Bedok, and they were branded with the name REAL Education.

Mr Toh, who was employed as managing director, taught economics at the centres while continuing to teach his own students at his Choa Chu Kang flat.

He also registered a sole proprietorship, and set up another tuition company with Mr Keng and a third person.

The different tuition entities sometimes conducted joint marketing activities, such as the design, printing and distribution of fliers.

In October 2015, Mr Toh quit as director and shareholder of TuitionGenius.

He said his relationship with Mr Keng soured in 2014 due to rumours that the businessman was having an affair with Mr Toh's mother.

Mr Toh said he decided to quit after Mr Keng's daughter got involved in a dangerous car chase with his mother in September 2015.

The Kengs said they suspected he was siphoning money from the company and he left after being questioned.

The company sued Mr Toh for conducting a business on the side and engaging in activities that were in competition with its business.

But Mr Toh said Mr Keng had agreed to let him carry on a business of his own.

He said Mr Keng had approached him to go into a joint venture, hoping to leverage his popularity as a tutor.

Justice Lee said the evidence adduced by Mr Toh was sufficient to infer that such an agreement existed.

The judge, however, found that Mr Toh had breached his employment contract by hiring a tutor who was still employed by TuitionGenius.

A further hearing will be held to determine whether the company was entitled to damages.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.