SW Legal Educational Publishing

Plaintiff Has Burden to Establish Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Description Appeals court upheld trial court ruling that plaintiff has duty, once existence of fiduciary duty is established, to show that fraud, self-dealing, or negligence may have breached the duty. Only then does the burden shift to the fiduciary to show there was no self-dealing.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Fiduciary Duty, Burden of Proof
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A trust designated P.S. as beneficiary. P.S. lived at a facility for mentally handicapped persons. His request for government assistance was rejected in 1987 because the trust was available to pay his expenses. An appeal of the decision was rejected. Wakelee was appointed conservator of P.S.'s estate in 1989, a position he held until Murphy was appointed to replace him in 1993. Murphy sued Wakelee, contending he was negligent in exercising his fiduciary duty to preserve the trust by not further appealing the request for government assistance. Trial court held for Wakelee, holding that plaintiff had the burden of proving that the defendant, as conservator, was negligent and that his negligence was a proximate cause of injury to the estate; Murphy appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The duty of a conservator is held to the same legal standards as are other fiduciaries. When a fiduciary is charged with breach of duty, the plaintiff has the duty to establish that the duty exists and that it has been breached. The presumption of breach of duty or fraud does not exist, it must be shown before the burden is shifted to the fiduciary to prove fair dealing.
Citation Murphy v. Wakelee, --A.2d-- (1998 WL 897348, Sup. Ct., Conn.)
721 A.2d 1181 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 1998)

Back to Wills, Estates, and Trusts Listings

©1998  South-Western, All Rights Reserved