Breach of Fiduciary Duty/Trust, Causation, Trustee Discretion

Breach of trust is a type of breach of fiduciary duty. “To prevail on a breach of fiduciary duty, a plaintiff must show: (1) the existence of a fiduciary duty; (2) a breach of that fiduciary duty; (3) causation; and (4) harm.” Matter of Wilma G. James Trust, 487 S.W.3d 37 (Mo. Ct. App. 2016).

For purposes of causation, the usual test is whether the injury or damage is the “natural and probable consequence” of the defendant’s actions. Stanley v. City of Independence, 995 S.W.2d 485, 488 (Mo. 1999). Proximate cause cannot be based on pure speculation and conjecture. Id. Each case is decided on its own facts. Id.

A trustee receives greater protection and deference in breach of fiduciary duty claims where the trustee has sole discretion per the terms of the trust on a matter. In such circumstances, a “court will not interfere in the exercise of that discretion unless the trustee willfully abuses his discretion or acts arbitrarily, fraudulently, dishonestly, or with an improper motive.” Brown v. Brown-Thill, 543 S.W.3d 620, 633 (Mo. Ct. App. 2018).

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