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Litigation Newsletter

Returning Property to its Rightful Owner

A constructive trust is a remedy imposed by a court when a person has wrongfully attained property in an inappropriate way. The court will undo the transaction and order that title to the property go to the rightful owner.

Types of Wrongful Conduct

Any wrongful activity that leads to the unfair obtainment of property may be cause for a constructive trust, including:

  • Fraud (including forgery)
  • Theft (including embezzlement)
  • Accident
  • Mistake
  • Undue influence
  • Violation of fiduciary duty (for example, where a partner purchases property in his own name rather than in the name of the partnership)

Factors

In order for a constructive trust to be created, the following factors must exist:

  • Fraudulent representations or concealment of important and material information, or breach of trust
  • Acts such as transfer of property as a result of the fraud or breach
  • Profit and/or unjust enrichment as a result of fraudulent representation or concealment of important and material information

Remedy Under Constructive Trusts

A constructive trust is imposed when an affected party initiates a lawsuit requesting relief. It typically provides that the property pass from the wrongful owner to the rightful owner.

However, if the unlawful owner has damaged or destroyed any of the property, the rightful owner is entitled to a money judgment for the value of the property.

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