Fiduciary Duty and What it Means

Fiduciary duty may seem like a dry legal concept that has very little to do with everyday life, but in fact it acts on most people on a daily basis. Fiduciary duty is defined as the responsibility of one party who is placed in a position of trust to act on behalf of another party’s best interests. Examples of instances when fiduciary duty is relevant include transactions between a doctor and a patient, a bank and a depositor, and a priest and a confessor. In each of these relationships, one party has complete confidence that the other party will not profit from their association to his or her detriment.

Of course, fiduciary duty is not a phrase that is commonly used. What would be more familiar to a lay person would be doctor-patient confidentiality and sanctity of the confessional. When it comes to estate planning and probate, however, a fiduciary plays a crucial role. The fiduciary is expected to carry out the wishes and directions of the principal as stated in a last will and testament, trusts, or other legal document even if it conflicts with the fiduciary’s beliefs, opinions, or benefit. Examples of fiduciaries in estate planning would be executors, banking institutions, asset managers, and probate lawyers.

For example, if a millionaire in Houston leaves a will dividing the estate equally between his wife and his daughter, his executor would need to determine which goes to who while the Houston lawyer would ensure that the estate goes through probate court as speedily as possible. It would be a break of fiduciary duty for the executor to under-appraise an asset and then acquire it from the estate. In the case of the probate lawyer, it would be a breach to delay the probate process to motivate one or more heirs to “grease the wheels” to make the process go faster.

Fiduciary duty is considered one which is brought to the highest legal standard, and it is easy to breach it unknowingly or unintentionally. If you suspect a breach of fiduciary duty in estate planning or probate in yourself or others, consult with a lawyer experienced in such matters.

The Good and the Bad of Topamax

This last six months or so has been a rollercoaster ride for pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) when it comes to its Jekyll and Hyde product Topamax. J&J recently received approval for the use of Topamax (topiramate) for 12 to 17-year-olds to prevent the onset of migraines. This was a few months after the company suffered its second major setback in court for failure to warn litigation for the same product where the plaintiff was awarded $11 million in damages.

Topamax is an anti-epileptic medication that was first introduced in 1996 and was found to be highly efficacious, contributing to its popularity. However, the product was routinely prescribed for off-label uses such as weight loss and for treating bipolar disorder, which would have been fine…except for the side effects. By 2011, it was apparent that Topamax caused birth defects in women who took the medication while they were pregnant.

Topamax lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged that J&J’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has known about the risk to patients and their unborn children but failed to warn them or their physicians about it. That, coupled with aggressive marketing strategies that encouraged off-label use of Topamax, was a recipe for disaster for which J&J is now financially liable.

With this new approved use of Topamax, which is now clearly labeled to indicate risks to pregnant women and for off-label uses, it is presumed that J&J will more than recoup their present and future losses in the legal arena, although the company intends to appeal the 2 verdicts that have been handed down against them. There are currently more than 130 cases still pending against J&J for Topamax.

If your child was born with birth defects because of Topamax, you may have an actionable case. Consult with an experienced Topamax lawyer in your area to find out if you can sue for compensation.

Death and Injury in Fireworks Mishap

Preparations for a day meant to be in celebration were cut short when a trailer full of fireworks exploded, killing one person and seriously injuring three others. Investigations are ongoing, and a reckoning will have to be made soon.

Kiwanis Club members who were setting up the famous fireworks display slated as the culminating activity for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations in the small town of Comanche near Fort Worth were interrupted by a loud explosion coming from the direction of the local high school. One volunteer was near enough to the trailer to have been killed on the spot. The planned activities for the next day were canceled as a result.

The fireworks display had been a tradition in the town (population 4,500) for 24 years, drawing visitors from Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin, and nothing untoward had happened before. It is unclear what triggered the explosion. State fire marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

There are many possible explanations for the explosion, such as manufacturing defects or improper handling that caused the fireworks to go off unprovoked. It may be that someone had unintentionally or deliberately set it off by throwing a lighted match or live cigarette in the vicinity of the trailer. It is likely that the explosion was a result of some type of negligence, if not malice.

If and when the triggering agent is identified, families of the deceased and injured club members may seek to get compensation from the responsible parties. It will not be an easy task as explosion accidents often leave very little behind. In this case, Fort Worth personal injury lawyers should be engaged as they would have the resources to acquire the evidence to support a claim that is not available to most lay people.

Factors Affecting Child Custody

Child custody is hands-down the most emotionally-charged issue in a contentious divorce, and that is true in Texas as anywhere else in the US. Most state laws would encourage parents to share custody (or conservatorship in Texas) of their children based on the premise that it would be in their best interest to have significant contact with both parents. The Woodlands child custody lawyers can explain each parent’s rights when it comes to child custody so that an equitable agreement can be forged. However, when the parents can agree on nothing, they are unlikely to come up with a parenting agreement to present to the court. The courts will then have to decide for them.

Winning a child custody case requires extensive preparation, and it goes beyond financial or emotional capacity. In most cases, very young children are awarded custody to the mother even now because there are roles that a mother typically assumes, although this is no longer automatic. A father who wants to take over these roles will have to prove that he has the requisite qualities to do so, and that can be tricky, especially if the father has not taken on such roles i.e. homemaker prior to the divorce.

There is also the question of time. Most spouses work to make ends meet, which means that both parents may be out of the house most of the time. Sole physical conservatorship may be awarded to the parent who has a more flexible or regular schedule, while the other parent may be required to pay child support. This does not mean that one parent is more capable than the other, though.

Geography may also play a role in the court’s decision to award conservatorship. A parent who plans to relocate to another city or state may be at a disadvantage when it comes to winning conservatorship, as children may suffer from having their whole lives disrupted because of a divorce. Being in familiar surroundings among people they know may be beneficial for them to provide stability at a time when everything they know is changing.

If you are considering divorce but worried about your children, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer in your area to find out what you could be facing. If child custody is apt to become a problem, your lawyer will be able to advise you about how best to proceed.

Witnessing the Consequences of Motor Vehicle Accidents

Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents most frequently happen in the three days surrounding New Year’s Day, perhaps understandably, but not justifiably. It is never a good idea to drink and drive, which is a crime in all states in the US, and yet car accident lawyers frequently handle cases where the driver was impaired from alcohol consumption.

The most common injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents range from minor scratches to life-changing damage to the spine or the brain, and often it is a lopsided occurrence. A face-off between a passenger car and an 18-wheeler truck, for example, can be catastrophic for the car passenger whilst leaving the truck driver unscathed. This is the reason why truck drivers are held to a higher standard of care than regular drivers, and still Chicago truck accident lawyers routinely handle claims of serious injury or wrongful death against negligent truck drivers and/or truck companies.

It seems that no matter how vigorous the campaign to improve road safety, drivers just don’t understand the responsibility they take on when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Because of the size, speed, and weight of even a small passenger car, it is equivalent to having a loaded gun when handled by an irresponsible person. If a reckless driver is lucky, the only damage sustained is to property, but unfortunately, this is not the case as West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers know only too well.

With the current power of social media, perhaps actually witnessing the consequences of motor vehicle accidents through video would have a greater impact on drivers than current awareness campaigns. Most people react to news of accidents with a shrug of their shoulders, but it is much more difficult to shrug off the image of a toddler flying out of a vehicle hit by a speeding, impaired truck driver.

BP Continues to Use Delaying Tactics to Avoid Paying

British Petroleum Plc (BP) was principally responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that spilled millions of tons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the largest and costliest oil spill in the history of the oil and petroleum industry. BP and associate companies were found negligent and faced thousands of individual and business claims potentially worth billions, enough to bring the oil giant to its knees. To stave off litigation costs, BP drafted and submitted a proposed settlement program, which was approved by the federal court in 2012. Lafayette lawyer Patrick Juneau was tasked to administer the program. Almost from the start, BP complained about how the claims were being processed, although the settlement agreement merely required business owners in the affected areas to submit financial records to determine if they suffered a loss within the prescribed time period.

BP has taken over the claims administration under close supervision of the courts under new rules that experts criticize as unfairly prejudicial to cash-based businesses such those in the agricultural industry. Out of the 292,800 claims filed so far, 60,525 have been denied and would have to go through the BP claim appeals process, which is strictly timed and difficult to undertake without the help of an experienced BP claim appeal lawyer. Critics of the delaying tactics of BP believe that Juneau was mistaken in trying to placate the oil giant by imposing stricter requirements in making a claim than warranted by the original agreement.

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