Common Law Fiduciary Duties

Trustees, personal representatives, attorneys-in-fact, corporate directors, limited liability company managers, etc. owe fiduciary duties. Generally speaking, a fiduciary duty is where one person has a legal obligation to act in another’s interests. Whether a fiduciary duty exists is a question of law, while breach of fiduciary duty is usually a question of fact. Scanwell Freight Express STL, Inc. v. Chan, 162 S.W.3d 477, 481 (Mo. 2005).

Even without a formal designation or agreement, a fiduciary relationship may arise where one party places trust in another so that the latter gains superiority and influence over the former. Birkenmeier v. Keller Biomedical, LLC, 312 S.W.3d 380, 391 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010). The crucial test is “whether or not trust is reposed with respect to property or business affairs of the other.” Hibbs v. Berger, 430 S.W.3d 296, 313 (Mo. Ct. App. 2014). Significantly, the duty cannot be created unilaterally. The duty “derives from the conduct or undertaking of the purported fiduciary duty which is recognized by the law as justifying such reliance.” Id.

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