Court Holds That Family Member Did Not Owe Fiduciary Duties To Other Family Member

by Winstead PC
Contact

In Walker v. Walker, a son sued his father and brother regarding the ownership of a beach house. No. 14-16-00357-CV, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 2742 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] March 30, 2017, no pet. history). The son alleged that the father made an oral gift of the property to the son. The son alleged that the father wrongfully deeded the same property to the brother at a later date. The son and his wife brought suit to quiet title based on a claim of oral parol gift of realty and also asserted claims for damages based on promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Regarding the breach of fiduciary duty claim, the court of appeals discussed whether the brother owed the son a fiduciary duty:

[The] law also recognizes that certain relationships may give rise to an informal fiduciary duty based on “a moral, social, domestic or purely personal relationship of confidence and trust.” Informal fiduciary duties will not be created lightly. Some relationships involving trust and confidence simply do not rise to the stature of a fiduciary relationship. Subjective trust of one person in another is also not sufficient to create a duty. “[A] confidential relationship is a two-way street: ‘one party must not only trust the other, but the relationship must be mutual and understood by both parties.’” Family relationships may give rise to an informal fiduciary duty between family members where there is sufficient evidence of a relationship of trust and confidence. A mere family relationship, however, by itself is generally not sufficient. We will examine the actualities of the relationship between the parties in determining the existence of a confidential fiduciary relationship. Where there is no evidence to establish the relationship or the facts are undisputed, a court may determine the question as a matter of law.

Id. at * 30-31. The court reviewed the evidence and determined that it did not support any fiduciary duties. There was no evidence that the wife and brother-in-law had any relationship of trust and confidence: “There is no evidence showing that she sought Layne’s advice or guidance on any matter, nor evidence of any other circumstances suggesting a relationship of trust and confidence between them.” Id. The court also held that there was no evidence showing that the son was often guided by the judgment or advice of the brother, or that the son put any particular trust and confidence in the brother with regard to the son’s financial decisions. Nor was there any evidence indicating that the brother recognized that the son was relying on him to the extent that a fiduciary duty arose. Although the son argued generally that there was a history of the brother handling “family transactions,” he did not point to any evidence establishing that he relied upon or put his confidence in the brother with regard to any specific “family transactions.”

The court also held that even though the son and brother inherited real property and owned it as cotenants, that cotenants in real property do not ordinarily owe fiduciary duties to each other. Id. (citing Scott v. Scruggs, 836 S.W.2d 278, 282 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1992, writ denied) (“Absent a special relationship there is no fiduciary obligation owed by one cotenant to the others.”)). Therefore, the court affirmed the summary judgment dismissing the breach of fiduciary duty claim.

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.

© Winstead PC | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Winstead PC
Contact
more
less

Winstead PC on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.