The Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas upheld a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Lenora Fawcett on Thursday, allowing her to keep the award of more than $37,000 in home sale proceeds that had been withheld by her granddaughter.
Last July, defendants Stephen Young and Kimberly Young, Fawcett's granddaughter, filed a notice of appeal, seeking to reverse the jury's ruling and the subsequent judgment entered by the court.
Fawcett sued the Youngs in January 2010, claiming they sold her home without consent and gave her only $6,000 from the $148,000 transaction.
The trial began March 7, 2011, and ended the following day, with jurors finding that the Youngs failed to comply with their fiduciary duty to Fawcett.
The jury awarded Fawcett $37,162 in damages, according to the charge of the jury.
"While recovering (from an illness, Fawcett's) belongings were removed from her house without her knowledge or consent and placed in a storage POD," the original complaint states.
"The real property, along with Plaintiff's house, was sold by Stephen and Kimberly Young. The deed was filed May 13, 2009, and conveyed the property for cash and a note of $148,453."
On appeal, the Youngs argued that no fiduciary relationship existed, that they never held or administered property owned by Fawcett, and that the trial court could not impose a constructive trust in Fawcett's favor.
The Ninth Court's opinion, authored by Justice David Gaultney, found that a court may impose a constructive trust on property obtained as a result of a breach of fiduciary duty.
"Under the circumstances, we cannot say the trial court erred in imposing a constructive trust," states the court's July 26 opinion. "We overrule appellants' issues and affirm the trial court's judgment."
However, Justice Charles Kreger wrote a dissenting opinion, stating "there is no evidence of a fiduciary relationship" between the parties.
Bruce Gregory of Gregory Law Firm in Port Neches represents Fawcett.
Houston attorney Robert Price represents the Youngs.
Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, is presiding over the trial court.
Trial case No. A185-703
Appeals case No. 09-11-00391-CV