Breach of Fiduciary Duty

David F. Johnson presented “Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims Against Trustees/Managers of Closely-Held Businesses” with Kenneth J. Fair of Wright Close & Barger, LLP, on July 22, 2021, for Strafford Webinars to a national audience. This presentation covered various issues involved in a trustee owning an interest in a closely-held business when disputes arise. The

In Cohen v. Newbiss Prop., a limited partner sued a transferee of real property for aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy to breach fiduciary duty. No. 01-19-00397-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 9190 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] November 24, 2020, no pet. history). While the limited partners were suing the general partner, the defendants/transferees bought the property. The trial court granted the transferees’ motion for summary judgment, and the limited partners appealed.
Continue Reading Court Holds That Purchaser Of Partnership Property Was Not Liable For Aiding And Abetting A General Partner’s Breach Of Fiduciary Duty

In Pense v. Bennett, the ward in a guardianship proceeding sued to invalidate the sale of real property from a trust created for his benefit to an affiliate of the trustee. No. 06-20-00030-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 8002 (Tex. App.—Texarkana October 8, 2020, no pet.). The trial court granted summary judgment for the trustee, held that the sale was effective, but expressly refused to rule on a breach of fiduciary duty claim based on the transaction as it was pending in another proceeding. The ward appealed.

The court of appeals explained how the guardian had sought and obtained court approval for the creation of a management trust and the transfer of real property from the guardianship estate to the new trust. The trustee of that trust had the express authority to sell trust property:

Article VIII of the Trust Instrument lists the powers of the trustee. And, “[w]here the language of the trust instrument is unambiguous and expresses the intentions of the maker, the trustee’s powers are conferred by the instrument and neither the court nor the trustee can add or take away such power.” As pertinent here, the Trust Instrument authorized the trustee to: “[P]artition, exchange, release, convey or assign any right, title or interest of the trust in any real estate or personal property owned by the trust”; “[S]ell, exchange, alter, mortgage, pledge or otherwise dispose of trust property”; “[E]xecute and deliver any deeds, conveyances, assignments, leases, contracts, stock or security transfer powers, or any other written instrument of any character appropriate to any of the powers or duties herein conferred on the Trustee”; and “[H]old title to investments in the name of the Trustee or a nominee.”

In addition to these powers specified in the Trust Instrument, the Texas Trust Code authorizes “a trustee [to] exercise any powers . . . that are necessary or appropriate to carry out the purpose of the trust.” Those powers include the power to “contract to sell, sell and convey, or grant an option to sell real or personal property at public auction or private sale for cash or for credit or for part cash and part credit, with or without security.”


Continue Reading Court Holds That A Trustee Had The Power To Sell Trust Property To An Affiliate, Though Such An Act May Be In Breach Of A Duty

In Michael D. Heatley v. Red Oak 86, L.P. & Charles Johnson, investors in a limited partnership sued the managing member for breach of fiduciary duty. No. 05-18-01083-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 6592 (Tex. App.—Dallas August 17, 2020, no pet. history). The jury found that the defendants owed a fiduciary duty, breached the duty,

In re Estate of Bryant, a couple set up three trusts for their three children, Bill, Leslie, and Jane. No. 07-18-00429-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 2131 (Tex. App.—Amarillo March 11, 2020, no pet. history). After the couple had both passed away, their son Bill assumed the role of trustee of three trusts: Irrevocable Trust,

In Klinek v. Luxeyard, Inc., a company sued its majority shareholder in a suit for breach of fiduciary duty arising from a pump-and-dump scheme and later settled that claim. No. 14-17-00899-C, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 9421 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] October 29, 2019, no pet. history). The company then sued a third party for

In Melton v. Waddell, a sister sued her brother for breach of fiduciary duty for misapplying funds in a joint account and not properly allocating revenues from real estate that they owned as tenants in common. No. 07-18-00105-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 9531 (Tex. App.—Amarillo October 30, 2019, no pet. history). The brother filed

In Sanders v. Hathaway, the decedent’s estate’s representative sued her sister for various claims arising from the decedent’s beneficiary designation changes, deed transfers, and accounts payable on death changes that benefited the sister. No. 01-18-00661-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 5708 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] July 9, 2019, no pet. history). The sister alleged that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court granted summary judgment for the sister, and the representative appealed. The court of appeals first held that limitations had run on the claims:

Continue Reading Statute of Limitations Barred Estate Representative’s Claim To Void Beneficiary Designations

In Shopoff Advisors, LP v. Atrium Circle, GP, the buyer and seller to a real estate transaction sued each other. No. 04-18-00438-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 5764 (Tex. App.—San Antonio July 10, 2019, no pet. history). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant conspired with the escrow agent, who owed the plaintiff a fiduciary duty. The defendant filed a SLAPP motion, which the trial court denied. The Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) is also known as Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute. Id. (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 27.001-.011). The defendant appealed. The court of appeals affirmed in part on other claims, but reversed as to the conspiracy claim. Regarding conspiracy, the court held:

Continue Reading Court Holds That Economic Loss Rule Bars Conspiracy To Breach Fiduciary Duty Claims