The Wolf at the Campfire: Understanding Confidential Relationships
56 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2016 Last revised: 28 Apr 2018
Date Written: 2000
This article attempts to sharpen perspective on the concept of "confidential relationship" as a basis for extending equity jurisdiction. The concept is not new. The courts in this country began over a hundred years ago to hold that equitable remedies, and the attendant concepts of uberrima fides, full disclosure, and the avoidance of conflict of interest, apply not only to formal fiduciary relationships, such as trustee-beneficiary, attorney-client, doctor-patient and the like, but also to a wide variety of others, which the courts labeled "confidential relationships." The development of the doctrine defining this concept and its boundaries has been largely uniform among the jurisdictions. However,the doctrine has typically been so broadly stated that it carries very little substantive content. If the words of the courts are to be taken literally, a confidential relationship giving rise to fiduciary obligation may include any business, social, or purely personal relationship in which one party justifiably places trust and confidence in another to care for his or her welfare and interests. But the breadth of these statements is seriously misleading if unaccompanied by a guiding context.
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