Updated: Sep 6
A constructive trust is an equitable remedy on property (including land, ownership in a company, or a piece of physical property like a boat or piece of art), where the property in question was obtained via or involved in some misdeed (tortious conduct). The constructive trust effectively freezes the property until a court can determine how to properly deal with it. Generally speaking, a constructive trust can be imposed at the court’s discretion in cases of unjust enrichment or where there has been a breach of trust (i.e. a successful claim for breach of fiduciary duty). Constructive Trusts can be imposed pursuant to a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction to prevent the dissipation of the target property. In some states, this form of relief is codified in statute. See, e.g., WY Stat § 4-10-1001(b)(ix) (2013).
The elements for imposition of a constructive trust are vague and broad: “a constructive trust arises by construction of the court when equity so demands . . . a constructive trust arises where the retention of property would result in the unjust enrichment of the person retaining it . . . [as] Equity abhors unjust enrichment.” Rossel v. Miller, 26 P.3d 1025, 1028 (Wyo. 2001).