Schwartz & Ponterio, PLLC holds lawyers responsible for legal malpractice.

What happens when an attorney misuses your funds?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2020 | Legal Malpractice

You’ve been paying your attorney for several months. Every time they send a bill, you make sure you pay right away. You check over what they’re charging for, and you guarantee that they have what they need for their time and the fees you need to pay to the court.

That’s why you were so surprised when you found out that they hadn’t paid the court the fees that it was owed. You trusted that your attorney would handle those fees for you, but yet, they hadn’t.

This could be a case of a breach of fiduciary duty

A breach of fiduciary duty happens when your attorney misuses funds that were intended to be used in a certain manner. For example, if you give them $240 for court costs and the attorney takes that money and spends it on something for the office, then they have misused the funds. If they don’t pay the court costs, that creates an even more significantly negative situation for you, since those costs will still need to be paid.

To breach fiduciary duties, you need a fiduciary relationship with your attorney

To hold your attorney accountable for misusing funds you provided to them, you will need to show that you had a fiduciary relationship with them. You’ll have to show that you had a contract to work together and that your attorney had taken on your case. You’ll need to show that they owed you a duty to cover court fees or to spend the money you were providing them in a specific way that they did not. Additionally, you need to show that you suffered damages as a result.

What do you need to do if you think your attorney is misusing case funds?

To start with, it’s a good idea to talk to your attorney about the funds that you’ve given them and how they were spent. Ask for expenses to be itemized, so you can see where each payment went.

If they cannot provide you with information on how the money was spent or it’s clear that they did not use your funds to cover what they should have, then it may be appropriate to seek support from a different attorney for that breach.