Mother Ordered to Pay Disabled Son’s Settlement Funds Due to Breach of Fiduciary Duties

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that Claire-Laura Whitson, the mother of a disabled man, must pay her son $441,700 in settlement funds that she misappropriated for her own use. The judgment, delivered by Justice Anthony Saunders, found that Claire breached her fiduciary duties to her son, Justin, who suffered significant birth injuries.

Under the terms of the settlement, Justin was entitled to monthly payments and lump sum payments at various ages. However, the court discovered that Claire used the settlement money for personal purposes, including gambling at casinos, while Justin was under her care. The judgment also revealed that Claire subjected her son to emotional, verbal, and physical abuse, further exacerbating the breach of trust.

Based on evidence presented, the court determined that Claire’s severe dementia rendered her incapable of managing her estate, which is now under the administration of the Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C. (PGTBC). The PGTBC, a government corporation responsible for financial affairs of individuals lacking legal capacity, attempted to become the sole trustee of Justin’s funds due to irregularities in Claire’s accounts. However, they were unsuccessful, and the court ruled that they no longer needed to monitor Claire’s management of the funds.

In light of the judgment, the PGTBC was not obligated to inform Justin of the payments he was entitled to. This case highlights the importance of safeguarding vulnerable individuals and ensuring the proper management of funds allocated for their care. The verdict holds Claire accountable for her actions and emphasizes the need for appropriate guardianship provisions in cases where individuals are unable to manage their own affairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What were the settlement funds intended for?

The settlement funds were awarded to Justin, the disabled son, to provide financial support for his care and well-being.

2. Who is responsible for Claire’s estate now?

Due to Claire’s severe dementia, her estate is now the responsibility of the Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C. (PGTBC), a government corporation that manages the financial affairs of individuals lacking legal capacity.

3. Did the court rule in favor of the Public Guardian and Trustee’s breach of duty claim?

No, the court dismissed Justin’s claim against the Public Guardian and Trustee, stating that his father was in a position to safeguard his interests and, therefore, created sufficient proximity between Justin and the PGTBC.

4. What actions can be taken to prevent similar breaches of fiduciary duties?

Proper guardianship provisions, regular financial audits, and greater oversight can help prevent the misappropriation of funds intended for vulnerable individuals. In complex cases, involving a government corporation like the PGTBC, clear guidelines and communication protocols should be established to ensure the protection of the individual’s assets.