In Hussion St. Bldgs., LLC v. TRW Eng’rs, Inc., the plaintiff landowner claimed its real property was injured by the failure of an engineering firm involved in developing the adjoining property to include a water-detention plan. No. 14-20-00641-CV, 2022 Tex. App. LEXIS 2193 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] April 5, 2022, no pet. history). The landowner asserted claims of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, and the trial court granted the engineering firm’s summary-judgment motion on the grounds that limitations barred the negligence claim and licensed engineers do not owe fiduciary duties to non-clients. The court of appeals reversed the summary judgment on the negligence claim because the engineering firm failed to conclusively establish that the landowner’s claims accrued more than two years before this suit was filed. Turning to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, the court held:

TRW moved for summary judgment on Hussion’s breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim on the ground that engineers do not owe fiduciary duties to non-clients under Texas law. TRW is correct. Indeed, courts have declined to hold that engineers owe fiduciary duties even to their own clients. See Sheffield Dev. Co. v. Carter & Burgess, Inc., No. 02-11-00204-CV, 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 10599, 2012 WL 6632500, at *10 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Dec. 21, 2012, pet. dism’d). The provisions of the Administrative Code on which Hussion relies do not create fiduciary duties owed to the public at large, nor do they purport to do so. They do not refer to “duty” at all, much less to the elevated duties owed by fiduciaries.

Hussion nevertheless argues that the Administrative Code creates an informal fiduciary relationship. This argument misapprehends the nature of an informal fiduciary relationship. An informal fiduciary relationship, also known as a “confidential relationship,” may arise “where one person trusts in and relies upon another, whether the relation is a moral, social, domestic or merely personal one.” … Fiduciary duties arise only in the context of fiduciary relationships, and Hussion does not claim to have had a relationship of trust and confidence with TRW that existed independently from, and prior to, TRW’s work on the Project.… If a business transaction is involved, “the special relationship of trust and confidence must exist prior to, and apart from, the agreement made the basis of the suit.” … Because TRW owed no fiduciary duties to Hussion, we conclude that the trial court properly granted summary judgment against Hussion on its breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim.

Id.

Photo of David Fowler Johnson David Fowler Johnson

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the The Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary…

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the The Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary field in Texas. Read More

David’s financial institution experience includes (but is not limited to): breach of contract, foreclosure litigation, lender liability, receivership and injunction remedies upon default, non-recourse and other real estate lending, class action, RICO actions, usury, various tort causes of action, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and preference and other related claims raised by receivers.

David also has experience in estate and trust disputes including will contests, mental competency issues, undue influence, trust modification/clarification, breach of fiduciary duty and related claims, and accountings. David’s recent trial experience includes:

  • Representing a bank in federal class action suit where trust beneficiaries challenged whether the bank was the authorized trustee of over 220 trusts;
  • Representing a bank in state court regarding claims that it mismanaged oil and gas assets;
  • Representing a bank who filed suit in probate court to modify three trusts to remove a charitable beneficiary that had substantially changed operations;
  • Represented an individual executor of an estate against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty and an accounting; and
  • Represented an individual trustee against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty, mental competence of the settlor, and undue influence.

David is one of twenty attorneys in the state (of the 84,000 licensed) that has the triple Board Certification in Civil Trial Law, Civil Appellate and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Additionally, David is a member of the Civil Trial Law Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This commission writes and grades the exam for new applicants for civil trial law certification.

David maintains an active appellate practice, which includes:

  • Appeals from final judgments after pre-trial orders such as summary judgments or after jury trials;
  • Interlocutory appeals dealing with temporary injunctions, arbitration, special appearances, sealing the record, and receiverships;
  • Original proceedings such as seeking and defending against mandamus relief; and
  • Seeking emergency relief staying trial court’s orders pending appeal or mandamus.

For example, David was the lead appellate lawyer in the Texas Supreme Court in In re Weekley Homes, LP, 295 S.W.3d 309 (Tex. 2009). The Court issued a ground-breaking opinion in favor of David’s client regarding the standards that a trial court should follow in ordering the production of computers in discovery.

David previously taught Appellate Advocacy at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law located in Fort Worth. David is licensed and has practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court; the Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Federal Circuits; the Federal District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Texas; the Texas Supreme Court and various Texas intermediate appellate courts. David also served as an adjunct professor at Baylor University Law School, where he taught products liability and portions of health law. He has authored many legal articles and spoken at numerous legal education courses on both trial and appellate issues. His articles have been cited as authority by the Texas Supreme Court (twice) and the Texas Courts of Appeals located in Waco, Texarkana, Beaumont, Tyler and Houston (Fourteenth District), and a federal district court in Pennsylvania. David’s articles also have been cited by McDonald and Carlson in their Texas Civil Practice treatise, William v. Dorsaneo in the Texas Litigation Guide, and various authors in the Baylor Law ReviewSt. Mary’s Law JournalSouth Texas Law Review and Tennessee Law Review.

Representative Experience

  • Civil Litigation and Appellate Law