Hotz v. Minyard
304 S.C. 225, 403 S.E.2d 634 (1991)

  • Minyard owned two car dealerships, Greenville and Anderson. He had two children, Tommy and Judy, who worked in the dealerships.
    • Tommy was mostly in charge of the Greenville dealership
    • Judy was mostly in charge of the Anderson dealership.
      • Minyard signed a contract with the car manufacturer that designated Judy as the successor at the Anderson dealership.
  • Minyard got his attorney, Dobson to draw up a will. This will gave various things to various relatives but split the majority of his estate between the two children.
    • The will was witnessed by Minyard’s wife and Tommy.
  • Minyard went back to Dobson later that afternoon and signed a second will that gave the Greenville dealership to Tommy outright.
    • He told Dobson not to disclose the existence of the second will.
  • Judy later complained to Minyard that he was cheating her out of money from the business. Minyard lied and used the claim that he had left her money in his will as leverage in negotiating a new contract with her.
    • Judy asked to see the will, Dobson showed her the first will, without explaining that it had now been revoked by subsequent instrument.
  • Minyard had a stroke and became mentally incompetent. Judy cared for his needs while Tommy ran both dealerships. When Judy attempted to return to work, Tommy had her dropped from the payroll.
    • Judy claimed that Tommy was running the Anderson dealership poorly and losing money.
  • Judy complained and Minyard (who was better) executed a codicil that removed Judy from his will entirely.
  • Judy sued Tommy for tortuous interference with a contract and other things. She also sued Dobson for breach of fiduciary duty.
  • The Trial Judge dismissed all the complaints in summary judgment. Judy appealed.
    • Judy argued that Dobson’s deception caused her to not press her claims against Tommy, which gave him more time to consolidate his position and cause more financial damage to the Anderson dealership.
    • The Trial Court found that Dobson owed no fiduciary duty to Judy because he worked for Minyard, not her.
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed in part.
    • The South Carolina Supreme Court found that Dobson did owe a fiduciary duty to Judy.
      • Turns out, Dobson had been preparing Judy’s taxes for years.
      • The Court found that Judy’s dealing with Dobson on other matters created a ‘special confidence’ that meant Dobson needed to act in good faith.
    • The Court found that while Dobson had no duty to disclose the existence of the second will, he did have a duty to act in good faith and not misrepresent the first will.