Hotz v. Minyard

304 S.C. 225, 403 S.E.2d 634 (1991)

 

RULE:

A fiduciary relationship exists when one has a special confidence in another so that the latter, in equity and good conscience, is bound to act in good faith. Although a father's attorney did not a represent a daughter regarding her father's will, an attorney who had a separate, ongoing attorney/client relationship with the daughter, owed the daughter the duty to deal with her in good faith and not actively misrepresent her father's will.

FACTS:

A  daughter brought an action against her brother, two automobile dealerships that had been established by her father, and an attorney, which alleged that the attorney breached his fiduciary duty to her by misrepresenting her father's first will. The daughter believed she would receive certain property if she refrained from pursuing her lawsuit against her brother. The trial court granted the attorney's motion for summary judgment on several causes of action. The daughter appealed the ruling on the cause of action against the attorney for breach of fiduciary duty, and the dismissal of the dealerships as a party defendant.

ISSUE:

Did the trial court in granting summary judgment to a father's attorney on the daughter's cause of action against the attorney for breach of fiduciary duty? 

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

On appeal, the court concluded that although the attorney represented the deceased and not the daughter regarding her father's will, the attorney had an ongoing attorney/client relationship with the daughter and there was evidence she had a special confidence in him. The court found that the attorney had no duty to disclose the existence of the second will against the deceased's wishes, but he did owe the daughter the duty to deal with her in good faith and not actively misrepresent the first will. The court noted that S.C. R. Civ. P. 23(b), governing derivative suits, made no mention of the need to name the corporation as a party defendant, and stated that a corporate defendant may be named as a party defendant even where no wrongdoing by the corporate entity has been alleged.

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