Applying Delaware law, a South Carolina District Court found Plaintiff had properly pled its causes of action for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence/gross negligence and negligent misrepresentation involving allegations that Defendant approved multiple transactions depleting the trust account which protected Plaintiff’s obligations under its fronting agreement.
The Court found Plaintiff adequately pled that Defendant breached its duty under the fronting agreement when it depleted the trust’s legitimate assets and left Plaintiff with a duty to pay claims. While the Court acknowledged that the fronting agreement did not explicitly impose a duty on Defendant to validate and confirm the assets admitted to the trust, nevertheless, at the very least, “the duty to provide an ‘accounting’ required Defendant to submit a ‘rendition of [the] account’ and the assets it contained.”
The Court also found Plaintiff adequately pled that Defendant breached its fiduciary duty owed to Plaintiff, as Defendant was the trustee and Plaintiff the trust’s sole beneficiary. Although Delaware law prohibits fiduciary duty claims that are wholly duplicative of contract claims, the Court found Plaintiff’s allegations of fiduciary duty were based on additional facts which were broader in scope than the parties’ contractual obligations.
The Court further found Plaintiff sufficiently alleged an independent duty of good faith and duty of care, which supports Plaintiff’s claim for negligence/gross negligence.
Finally, while the Court acknowledged Defendant’s argument that under the trust agreement Defendant had “no duty or responsibility with respect to the qualification, character, or valuation of the Assets deposited into the trust account,” in the contract between the parties, Defendant (as trustee) “agreed to maintain assets of the trust. . . to be negotiable at any time.” Being the agreed upon terms, the Court held that “Defendant cannot alter these terms by placing boilerplate disclaimer language as to the value of the funds on the statement to absolve itself of contractual duties. When Plaintiff attempted to withdraw the assets of the trust account, Defendant could not negotiate these assets.”