Can You Sue for Breach of Fiduciary Duty in South Carolina?

You may have many personal reasons to sue a fiduciary that broke your trust, one of the fundamental reasons likely being significant financial loss. If you are a beneficiary and believe a fiduciary breached their duty, you may have a claim for a civil lawsuit. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition of Fiduciary Duty: A legal obligation requiring an individual to act in the best interest of another person or entity, prioritizing their welfare above their own.
  2. Eligibility to Sue: Only the beneficiary to whom the fiduciary duty is owed can initiate a lawsuit for breach of this duty in South Carolina.
  3. Common Fiduciary Relationships: These include relationships between employers and employees, accountants and clients, attorneys and clients, executors of estates, guardians and wards, corporate officers and shareholders, among others.
  4. Examples of Breach: Breaches can occur in various forms such as acting in the interest of a competitor, failing to disclose conflicts of interest, embezzlement, or denying shareholders their rights.
  5. Filing a Lawsuit: In South Carolina, individuals generally have three years from the date of the alleged breach to file a claim.
  6. Proving the Case: Plaintiffs must prove the existence of a fiduciary relationship, a breach of that relationship, and that damages were suffered as a result of the breach.
  7. Seeking Legal Counsel: Given the complexity and challenges of breach of fiduciary duty claims, it is advised to seek experienced legal counsel to navigate the process.

What Is a Fiduciary Duty?

Sue for Breach of Fiduciary Duty South Carolina

A fiduciary duty is a legal obligation for an individual to act solely in the best interest of another person or entity. A fiduciary must put the welfare of their beneficiary above their interest. They are in a position of utmost trust and are held to a high standard of honesty, integrity, and transparency. Above all else, they cannot benefit at the expense of their beneficiary. If a fiduciary fails to act in the beneficiary’s best interest, they have breached their duty.  

Can You Sue a Fiduciary in South Carolina?

You can sue a fiduciary, but only if you are the beneficiary to whom they owe a duty. 

For instance, if a friend was in a fiduciary relationship and believes the fiduciary breached their duty, you cannot sue that fiduciary; only your friend can. In other words, you cannot sue on behalf of someone else. 

Examples of Fiduciary Relationships

While you may not be familiar with the term “fiduciary,” you have likely engaged in these relationships regularly. There are many types of fiduciary relationships, and some common examples of fiduciary relationships include the following:

  • An employer and employee,
  • An accountant and client, 
  • An attorney and client, 
  • An executor or personal representative of an estate,
  • A principal and agent,
  • A guardian to a ward,
  • A corporate officer to shareholders, 
  • Joint ventures with each other, and
  • A trustee to a beneficiary.

Other fiduciary relationships exist, and a breach may be actionable even if you do not see it on the above list. 

Examples of a Fiduciary Duty Breach

Within fiduciary relationships, there can be many forms of a breach which may depend on the nature of the relationship and the role of the fiduciary. Some common examples include:

  • Acting in the interest of a competitor,
  • Failing to disclose a conflict of interest,
  • Sharing trade secrets,
  • Failing to disclose pertinent information and facts,
  • Self-dealing or acting to your benefit,
  • Embezzling against an estate or trust, and
  • Denying shareholders access to documents or preventing them from exercising their voting rights.

It is important to remember this list is not all-inclusive, and a breach of fiduciary can take many shapes and forms. If you believe a violation occurred, it is best to contact a knowledgeable attorney to assess your case.

How to Sue for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Under South Carolina law, an individual generally has three years to file a breach of fiduciary claim from the date the alleged breach occurred. If you believe someone breached their duty to you, you must act with some expeditiousness. 

Proving a Breach of Fiduciary Claim in Court

The plaintiff must prove several factors to win a breach of fiduciary duty action. 

To be successful, the plaintiff in a breach of the fiduciary case must prove the essential elements of the claim. The plaintiff can recover damages the defendant caused by providing substantial evidence to support these elements. 

  • Fiduciary Relationship Existed: The plaintiff must prove that a fiduciary relationship existed (i.e., the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty).
  • Breach: The plaintiff must prove the fiduciary breached that relationship and expected duties. Specifically, a breach means that the fiduciary acted contrary to their duty. 
  • Damages: The plaintiff must prove that by the fiduciary failing to uphold their duty, the plaintiff suffered damages. If the fiduciary withheld pertinent information, misappropriated funds, took advantage of their authority or influence, failed to uphold their responsibilities, or misrepresented relevant facts, it is likely that the plaintiff suffered some degree of economic damage. 

Notably, the plaintiff will only have an actionable case if they can show the defendant’s breach caused them to suffer damages. In other words, even if the plaintiff can prove a fiduciary relationship existed and the fiduciary breached that relationship, the plaintiff still needs to show that they suffered damages (e.g., financial loss). Otherwise, they do not have a viable case. Keeping diligent records can be vital to proving your claim in court.

Get Help from South Carolina Breach of Fiduciary Duty Lawyer Today

If you trusted someone to have your best interest at heart and they breached that trust, it can be devastating emotionally and financially. If you are wondering about your legal recourse and whether you can sue for breach of fiduciary duty, it is best to seek experienced legal counsel. Breach of fiduciary duty claims are complex and challenging. The evidentiary proof necessary to be successful is rarely readily available. It can take diligence and resources to investigate the claim. At the Peace Law Firm, we have been helping individuals who have been wronged for over two decades. Contact us today and let our experienced team assist you.

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