Court Held That Submission Of Jury Question On Fiduciary Duty Was Harmless Due To Duplication Of Damages

by Winstead PC
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In Hughes v. Hughes, a husband and wife sued each other for various claims, including breach of fiduciary duty. No. 13-15-00496-CV, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 3489 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi April 20, 2017, no pet. history). In the charge conference, the wife objected to the question as having an improper definition of fiduciary duty and objected to the following question as not identifying the specific transactions in question. Id. at *28. The definition used by the trial court tracked the exact language of pattern jury charge, entitled “Question and Instruction-Breach of Fiduciary Duty with Burden on Fiduciary.” The court of appeals noted that the commentary for this particular question and instruction advises to submit this question “whether the duty is based on a formal or an informal relationship, when the fiduciary bears the burden of proof.” The court of appeals held that a fiduciary duty exists between spouses. The court then concluded that any error was harmless:

Assuming without deciding that submitting question eight to the jury was error, we nevertheless could not conclude that such charge was reasonably calculated to or probably caused the rendition of an improper judgment because the amount of damages awarded to Dan under the breach of fiduciary duty claim is the same compensation as the amount of damages awarded in the actual fraud claim. Furthermore, Dan recovered this amount only once rather than twice in the judgment.

Id. at *29.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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