Breach of Fiduciary Duty Examples
Clients investigating whether their lawyer has breached their fiduciary duty often ask us for examples of what qualifies for a “breach of fiduciary duty” claim. Your lawyer’s fiduciary duty to you is the foundation upon which your attorney/client relationship is built, so it’s important to be able to identify when your attorney has breached that duty.
At Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers for clients whose attorney has breached their fiduciary duties. Below are some of the common examples of breached fiduciary duties that we’ve seen over the past 30 years.
If you are planning on suing a lawyer for malpractice, it is important to be familiar with what is considered malpractice for an attorney. Generally speaking, a lawyer can be guilty of either making a mistake (legal negligence) or breaching his/her fiduciary duty, which usually (but not always) results in some form of personal benefit to the attorney. A professional negligence lawyer from Sears Crawford can help you win your case against your former attorney regardless of whether your lawyer breached their fiduciary duty or was simply negligent.
What does breach of fiduciary duties mean?
Before we jump into breach of fiduciary duty examples, let’s do a quick review of what exactly a breach of fiduciary duty is in terms of a client-attorney relationship.
The fiduciary duty is the highest duty imposed by law in our country. It means that the attorney is obligated to act in a manner that puts your best interest ahead of their own. They MUST keep you fully informed and ALWAYS be completely honest and open with you. There can be no self-dealing by the attorney. YOU MUST ALWAYS COME FIRST!
A breach of fiduciary duty claim usually requires us to prove that the lawyer acted in a way that benefitted the attorney to the detriment of the client. It usually requires evidence of conduct by the attorney that goes beyond negligence or mere mistake and usually results in some personal benefit to the attorney.
Which of the following are examples of Breach of fiduciary duty?
- Breach of contract: When you enter into an attorney-client relationship with your lawyer, you typically (but not always) sign a contract. When the lawyer fails to comply with the terms of that contract, a breach of contract occurs and you may be entitled to damages. A breach of contract claim is typically not the same as a Fiduciary Duty claim.
- Confidentiality: Your attorney can’t reveal confidential information regarding your case unless you give them permission to do so. If your attorney discloses privileged or confidential information about you, without your permission, it can be a breach of Fiduciary Duty claim.
- Conflict of Interest: If a conflict of interest does arise, it is your attorney’s job to make you aware of the conflict immediately. For example, if while acting on behalf of your case, your attorney takes on a client with opposing interests, or simply favors another client over you, this can be considered a conflict of interest. Another example of a conflict of interest is when the lawyer goes into business with a client, or has financial interests that are different or contrary to the client. Undisclosed conflicts of interests give rise to Breach of Fiduciary Duty claims against your attorney.
- Self-dealing: This refers to when an attorney acts in a manner that benefits the attorney to the detriment of the client. An example of this is when an attorney settles the client’s case in a way that the attorney gets the majority of the money and the client ends up with substantially less money. Unless the client consents to such a settlement after full and complete disclosure of all the facts and information the client needs to consent to this decision, such could give rise to a Breach of Fiduciary Duty claim.
- Miscommunication: Proper communication between a client and their attorney is crucial. If your attorney is withholding information, or intentionally giving you advice that is not true or is less than the “full” truth, this can give rise to a Breach of Fiduciary Duty claim.
How do you prove breach of fiduciary duty?
To successfully prove a breach of fiduciary duty claim, you must demonstrate:
- There is duty: You must prove that a fiduciary relationship existed and that your attorney owed you a duty to represent your best interests. This is typically established via a written contract, although it can be verbal under some circumstances.
- That duty was breached: The lawyer acted or failed to act in a way that harmed the client and in a way that a reasonable and prudent attorney under the same or similar circumstances would not have acted.
- That the breach of duty resulted in a harm to the client: The harm is typically proven by showing that the outcome of the client’s case would have been better for the client if the attorney had done what he or she was required to do under the standard of care for attorneys in the same or similar situation, and the outcome benefitted the attorney to the client’s detriment.
Please note that there are alternatives to suing your lawyer. However, if you decide to sue your lawyer for breach of fiduciary duty, it’s wise to find a legal malpractice or professional negligence attorney as soon as possible.
Suing Your Lawyer for Breach of Fiduciary Duty? Call Sears Crawford to Represent You.
Now that we have shown breach of fiduciary duty examples, if you decide to sue your attorney, don’t just let anyone represent you. The attorneys at Sears Crawford are some of the top legal malpractice attorneys in Houston and Texas with over 60 years of combined experience handling successful legal malpractice cases.
To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call at 713-223-3333 today.
More Helpful Articles by Sears Crawford: