Florida Legal Malpractice Lawyers: Breach of Fiduciary Duty
If negligence is not the basis for your claim, the appropriate action may be breach of fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duty requires the lawyer to act in the best interest of the client. The underpinning of the attorney – client relationship is based on trust and loyalty. If you suspect your lawyer may have put his or her own interest ─ or those of a third party ─ before your own, then breach of fiduciary duty may be the basis of your claim. For an in-depth look at fiduciary duty, see this 2010 article in the Florida Bar Journal.
When the attorney accepts employment or confidential information is shared with him or her, a fiduciary obligation is implied by law. It is understood that a client or potential client will often place confidences in the attorney. The attorney must uphold these confidences. The attorney may have a degree of power or influence over the client’s interests and assets. The attorney must fully disclose any potential conflicts of interest and must exercise his or her skill, care, and diligence when acting on behalf of the client.
As with legal malpractice claims based on negligence, in breach of fiduciary duty claims legal experts are typically called to testify. Expert testimony helps explain to a jury what the attorney should have done under the circumstances in question.
Examples of Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- Business agreements where the attorney represents more than one party ─ even when disclosed in a retainer agreement ─ (conflict of interest). (Read more on conflicts of interest in For the Defense).
- Mishandling a client’s money, fraud, or comingling funds.
- Failing to disclose mistakes in the handling of a matter to the client.
- Favoring one client’s case to the detriment of another.
- Failure to properly advise the client about legal rights and decisions impacting the client’s case.
- Failure to keep Attorney-Client communications in confidence.
- Failure to keep the client informed of everything he or she needs to know (full disclosure).
You can read more about legal malpractice cases related to fiduciary duty complaints on the Legal Malpractice Law Review, affiliated with the Hofstra University School of Law. Legal malpractice decisions specific to Florida are available on the same site here.
At the Law Offices of Craig R. Zobel, we recognize that mistakes are made, ethics may be breached, and negligence occurs, even among lawyers. When this results in damage, the matter should be corrected. Our firm believes in the fiduciary duty of an attorney to his client, and we are committed to providing ethical, honest, and result-oriented service to each of our clients. We invite you to contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.