Finding Baker Botts breached its fiduciary duty in connection with estate-planning work done for a wealthy widow in Kerrville, Texas, a jury in Kerr County returned a $65.5 million verdict on Feb. 25 against the Houston-based firm and other defendants.
By a 10-2 vote, the jury found Baker Botts breached its fiduciary duty for failing to disclose “all important information” when doing estate-planning work for Kathleen C. Cailloux after the death of her husband, Floyd, in January 1997. The jury, however, found Baker Botts did not breach its fiduciary duty in three other areas — by failing to act with the utmost loyalty toward Cailloux, by participating in transactions that were not fair and equitable to Cailloux, or by failing to act in the utmost good faith and to exercise the most scrupulous honestly toward the widow.
The jury also found Wells Fargo Bank Texas N.A. breached its fiduciary duty to Kathleen Cailloux and found that former bank official William Goertz, who also served on the board of the Floyd A. Cailloux and Kathleen C. Cailloux Foundation, individually participated in that breach.
The jury assessed 25 percent of the responsibility for the injury to Cailloux, another 25 percent against Baker Botts, and 25 percent each against Wells Fargo and Goertz.
Baker Botts partner Stephen T. Dyer and former partner S. Stacy Eastland were also named defendants in the suit, but the jury was not asked to make any findings against them.
Cailloux had alleged in the Sixth Amended Petition in Kathleen C. Cailloux v. Baker Botts, et al. that the defendants conspired to convince her, right after Floyd Cailloux’s death in 1997, to disclaim her rights to her husband’s estate and transfer more than $60 million to the Cailloux Foundation — ostensibly to save more than $30 million in taxes — without informing her of other estate-planning options.
The jury found that, for the breaches of fiduciary duty, Kathleen Cailloux should be compensated with $65.5 million — the value she would have received in trust had she not agreed to disclaim her rights to the money.
Plaintiffs attorneys Rick Harrison and Richard Mosty, of Richard C. Mosty P.C. of Kerrville, say the verdict calls for the defendants to pay $65.5 million to the estate.