Breach of Fiduciary Duty

In Nancy Lasater’s tort complaint against her husband, John Guttmann, she said that he took advantage of her trust and confidence to secretly finance real estate investments, compact disks and other purchases.  He defrauded and deceived her in order to misappropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars of joint funds and her money for his own private purposes.  Nancy asserted that her husband owed her a duty of care, loyalty and disclosure.  He breached these duties, she said, by failing to disclose their financial position, their debt and by spending money on personal adventures and exotic merchandise.

The doctrine of interspousal immunity is used to bar civil actions by one spouse against another.  Bozman vs. Bozman, 376 Md. 461, 830 A.2d 450 (2003) did away with that doctrine.  However, the court said, it does not necessarily follow that spouses can now sue each other for breach of fiduciary duty.

The court said that unless there is an agreement, a husband and wife are not true fiduciaries of one another and there is no presumption of a confidential relationship between them.  The court said that there was no particular transaction singled out and that it would not permit a spouse to use breach of fiduciary duty to launch a broad attack on the other spouse’s handling of financial matters during the marriage.