David F. Johnson presented his paper on “Trustees’ Ability to Retain and Compensate Attorneys in Texas” to the Texas Bar Association’s Fiduciary Litigation Course on December 10, 2020. This presentation discussed a trustee’s authority to retain counsel, suggestions regarding engagement letters, attorney/client communication issues, inadvertent attorney/client relationships, co-trustee administration of trusts and its impact on

A. Introduction

It is not uncommon for beneficiaries to sue a trustee for actions that the beneficiaries had knowledge of but where they failed to object to that conduct for a period of time. In this circumstance, the trustee may want to raise certain equitable defenses to those claims, such as laches, ratification, waiver, and estoppel. Equitable defenses are appropriate for breach of fiduciary duty claims as fiduciary relationships originate in equity. At the core of these equitable defenses is the concept that a party should not be allowed to act inconsistently: have knowledge of conduct and fail to object to it for a period of time (thereby tacitly agreeing to the conduct) and then later raising claims against the trustee for the same conduct.
Continue Reading Use Of Equitable Defenses In Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Litigation

David F. Johnson presented his paper on “Administering A Trust In A Recession: Trust Loans To Beneficiaries” to the Houston Bar Association’s Probate and Estate Section on October 27, 2020 via a webinar format. This presentation addressed, among other things, a trustee’s authority to loan trust assets to beneficiaries, co-trustee issues, conflicts of interest, the

In Katz v. Intel Pharma, LLC, a minority member of a limited liability company sued a former manager for breach of fiduciary duty in a derivative action. No. H-18-1347, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120389 (S.D. Tex. July 9, 2020). The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that he did not owe any fiduciary duties, and even if he did, the minority member could not raise them after the company was no longer in existence. The federal district court denied the motion.
Continue Reading Court Held That Manager Owed Limited Liability Company Fiduciary Duties And That A Derivative Action Could Still Be Pursued After The Company Dissolved

In Gill v. Grewal, the suit arose out of a failed business venture between old college friends. No. 4:14-CV-2502, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104461 (S. D. Tex. June 15, 2020). Gill and Grewal attended college together in the late 1960s. After falling out of touch with each other for over thirty years, the two reconnected at a wedding. The day after the wedding, Grewal pitched Gill an entrepreneurial venture related to the healthcare industry. The parties then formed Healthema. After a dispute arose, Grewal sued his former friend for breaching fiduciary duties arising from the formation and operation of the business. Gill filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that he did not owe any fiduciary duties to Grewal. The district court granted the summary judgment motion on this issue.
Continue Reading Old College Friends Do Not Generally Owe Fiduciary Duties To Each Other