Friday, September 4, 2009
How to establish breach of fiduciary duty
To begin with, a fiduciary duty must first exist.
In order to prevail on a breach of fiduciary duty claim, a plaintiff must prove: (1) the existence of a fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, (2) a breach by the defendant of his or her fiduciary duty to the plaintiff, and (3) an injury to the plaintiff or benefit to the defendant as a result of the breach. Lundy v. Masson, 260 S.W.3d 482, 501 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, pet. denied).
An attorney can breach his or her fiduciary duty to a client by, among other things, failing to disclose a conflict of interest, failing to deliver the client's funds, placing his or her personal interests over those of the client, misusing client confidences, taking advantage of the client's trust, self‑dealing, and making misrepresentations. See Goffney v. Rabson, 56 S.W.3d 186, 193 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, pet. denied). An attorney only owes a duty of care to his clients and not to third parties, even if they may have been damaged by the attorney's representation of the client. Barcelo v. Elliott, 923 S.W.2d 575, 577-78 (Tex. 1996); Stancu v. Stalcup, 127 S.W.3d 429, 432 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004, no pet.); see also Swank v. Cunningham, 258 S.W.3d 647, 661-62 (Tex. App.-Eastland 2008, pet. denied) (holding that former corporate officers and shareholders could not maintain legal malpractice action in their individual capacities against law firm that represented corporation).
SOURCE: Brown v. Green (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Sep. 1, 2009)(Hedges)(legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty) (summary judgment for attorney affirmed)