Trust beneficiaries often request a corporate trustee to prepare a statutory accounting. The Texas Trust Code in Section 113.151 provides that a beneficiary may request a written statement of accounts. Tex. Prop. Code 113.151. Regarding what information needs to be contained in a written statement of accounts, parties and the courts must first look to the terms of the trust. Tex. Prop. Code § 111.0035(b). As one commentator provides: “The settlor may specify in the terms of the trust instrument what must be contained in an accounting by the trustee. When the trust instrument is silent concerning the contents of an accounting, the Trust Code provides a list of items that must be included in every accounting.” 4 Texas Probate, Estate and Trust Administration § 81.63. A trustee and a court should give deference to the trust document and follow its requirements (whether more stringent or less stringent than a statutes require).
Continue Reading Corporate Trustee’s Statements May Suffice For A Statutory Accounting

Parties often add limitation-of-liability clauses to their agreements. These types of clauses can purport to limit a party’s claims or damages or both.  Damage-limitation clauses can take many different forms. For example, such a clause may forbid the recovery of consequential or loss profits damages. Cont’l Holdings, Ltd. v. Leahy, 132 S.W.3d 471, 475-76 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2003, no pet.). Further, a contractual provision setting an upper limit on the amount recoverable is a limitation of liability provision. Arthur’s Garage, Inc. v. Racal-Chubb Sec. Sys., 997 S.W.2d 803, 810 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1999, no pet.); Fox Elec. Co. v. Tone Guard Sec., Inc., 861 S.W.2d 79, 83 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1993, no writ). If a plaintiff brings suit, the terms of the contract determine the relative positions of the parties and control the level of liability of either party. Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Houston Lighting & Power Co., 646 S.W.2d 509, 511 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1982, no writ).
Continue Reading A Limitation-Of-Liability Clause May Or May Not Be Enforceable For Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claims

The Texas Legislatures recently passed a bill that takes effect on September 1, 2021 that extends the rule against perpetuities to 300 years for trusts. The Legislature forwarded the bill (HB 654) to the governor on May 20, 2021, but he has not yet signed the bill into law. But unless he vetoes the bill, it will become law after ten days.

The Texas Constitution prohibits perpetuities: “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free government, and shall never be allowed . . . .” Tex. Const. art. I, § 26. A perpetuity is a restriction on the power of alienation that lasts longer than a prescribed period. ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann, 547 S.W.3d 858, 866-67 (Tex. 2018). The rule against perpetuities “should be a check on vain, capricious action by wealthy empire builders. But it should not be a constantly present threat to reasonable dispositions which slightly overstep a technical line.” Rekdahl v. Long, Tex., 417 S.W.2d 387 (1967) (Steakley, J., dissenting) (citing W. B. Leach & O. Tudor, The Rule Against Perpetuities § 24.11 at 43 (1957)).
Continue Reading Texas Legislature Extends The Rule Against Perpetuities To 300 Years For Trusts

In In re Silver State Holdings, in a bankruptcy proceeding a trustee of a limited liability company sued its former manager for breach of fiduciary duty and another entity for conspiracy to breach fiduciary duty arising out of a sale of property owned by the company. No. 19-41579-MXM 26 LLC, ADVERSARY NO. 19-4043-MXM 7901, 2020 Bankr. LEXIS 3531 (N.D. Tex. Bankr. December 17, 2020).
Continue Reading Bankruptcy Court Discussed The Fiduciary Duties Owed To A Limited Liability Company And Its Creditors By Its Manager

In Ec & Sm Guerra v. Phila. Indem. Ins. Co., an insured sued its property insurer for breach of fiduciary duty and other claims arising from the insurer’s denying a claim for wind damage and disagreeing with an appraiser’s report. SA-20-CV-00660-XR, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 196735 (W.D. Tex. October 21, 2020). The insurer filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted.
Continue Reading Court Holds That Insurers Do Not Generally Owe Fiduciary Duties To Insureds

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

  1. Introduction

A plaintiff in a trust or estate dispute often needs to seek a remedy before trial to protect it from immediate injury, to protect the assets made the basis of the suit, or to discover the real condition of the parties’ relationship or business. There are different types of relief that a plaintiff can seek.
Continue Reading Receiverships in Trust and Estate Litigation in Texas

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