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What does "Position of Trust" Mean?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Many legal systems throughout the world consider crimes committed by a person who is in a position of trust over the victim to be very serious. As such, the perpetrator of the crime often faces a more serious penalty. A position of trust, in legal terms, refers to a situation where one person holds a position of authority over another person and uses that position to his or her advantage to commit a crime or to injury the victim in some way. Liability for abuse of this position is not limited to criminal prosecution, and in some cases, a civil lawsuit may be brought as well.

Legal systems in Europe, Canada, and the United States all recognize crimes that may be aggravated by the existence of a position of trust. There are a variety of crimes that may have a trust element present, such as sexual crimes, financial crimes, and crimes of neglect. As a rule, such a crime is punished more severely than a similar crime by someone not in the same position.

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Victims of sexual crimes are particularly susceptible to being victimized when the perpetrator is a person they know and trust. Not surprisingly, it is easier for a person to gain access to a victim when he or she trusts the assailant. By the same token, many financial crimes, such as fraud, are more easily committed when the victim believes that the perpetrator can be trusted with his or her money. Crimes of neglect, such as elderly abuse, are especially prone to be committed by a person who the victim not only knows and trusts but also relies on to care for them.

Aside from actual crimes, civil lawsuits may also be brought on the basis that the defendant injured the plaintiff due, in part, to the fact that the plaintiff knew and trusted the defendant. Professional malpractice lawsuits are a good example of a situation where a victim may be injured either physically, financially, or emotionally by a person who was in a position of trust. Licensed professionals are typically held to a high standard of professional conduct because of their positions. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant does not face jail time but may be held liable and ordered to compensate the plaintiff for his or her injuries.

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manykitties2
Post 5

Our grandmother was very ill towards the end of the life so we had no choice but to place her in a nursing home, hoping that the around the clock care would be beneficial for her. We all visited frequently and thought we had a pretty good relationship with the staff working there.

We were horrified to find out that the staff was not properly taking care of my grandmother and she developed gangrene in her foot. We were disgusted and ended up suing the nursing home for neglect.

We put the staff at that nursing home in a position of trust, and they did a terrible job of holding up their end of the bargain.

animegal
Post 4

A few years ago one of the teachers in my high school got in a lot of trouble for having an affair with a student. The position of trust issue came up, as teachers are in control of a lot of young people, the people handling the situation really threw the book at him.

The teacher at our school was immediately fired from his position and removed from school property. Unfortunately because the student was 18 there was nothing they could do about their relationship from a more legal perspective.

I really think that teachers fraternizing with students is a huge breach of trust and should be punished by law, no matter what the age of the student.

cafe41
Post 3

@Suntan12 - I felt so bad for the employees of that company but executives of a company can also violate the trust of the employees by acts of sexual harassment. That is what happened at the company that my husband’s works at.

The former CEO of the company that my husband works for was fired for sexual harassment and wrongful termination of an employee. It turns out that he was sexually harassing two female managers of the company and actually terminated one for refusing his advances.

Luckily, the company got smart and fired this guy because you really can’t have someone breeching the trust between an employee and a manager this way.

What makes this really terrible is

that the CEO was in a position of power over the employees and actually used his power to fire one of the employees for refusing his advances. That is a total violation of trust as far as I am concerned because the employee signed on to do a job and get paid for it. They did not agree to be sexually harassed as well. The company was sued and had to settle the two lawsuits which proved to be expensive.
suntan12
Post 2

@Crispety - That is a shame. People that are somehow in a position of trust with respect to financial matters also have a higher propensity for fraud. All you have to do is think back to the Bernie Madoff scandal.

He violated the trust of his investors and swindled billions of dollars from them. I think when you give a single person that much power over your finances without a checks and balance system in place it becomes really easy to get ripped off.

A lot of people that invested with Bernie Madoff did so because of word of mouth. Initially a lot of investors were happy with the return that they were receiving which is why the amount

of money that he ended up managing was so high.

I think that something like this can also happen in a business like Enron too. There the employees were encouraged to buy more stock so that the stock price would go up even though the executives of the company knew that the stock was worthless.

Here the employees not only lost their jobs when the company went under, but they also lost their life savings because they trusted the executives of their company.

Crispety
Post 1

I read about an incredible story of medical malpractice that involved the removal of the wrong organ. The patient was told that she had cancer in her left kidney, but her right kidney was removed. Now the woman has no functioning kidneys and still has the cancerous kidney in her body.

Doctors are really held to a high standard especially when involving care that can significantly impact the quality of life for their patients. It is scary to think that a doctor could make a mistake like this. I know that in some cases in which doctors are sued for medical malpractice there are misdiagnoses of life threatening diseases.

Some people are given a clean bill of health

, but actually have cancer and the cancer was somehow missed. I know that some doctors can make mistakes, but mistakes of this magnitude are a little hard to swallow.

People are trusting doctors to offer the right medical advice and expect to receive the appropriate care.

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