Plaintiff was involved in a car collision caused by the negligent driving of defendant’s wife. Fifteen months after a car collision, plaintiff began experiencing neck and back pain. He underwent two surgeries as a result and sought funds to finance the operations. The estate of the wife of defendant had already been probated and closed by the time plaintiff underwent his operations. Plaintiff instead sought compensation from defendant under the joint enterprise theory.
A joint enterprise does not exist between parties when there is no common pecuniary or financial interest in the profits of the transactions.
Connie Steinle drove to Douglas, Wyoming to purchase a calf for her seven-year-old daughter to raise on the family’s ranch. While en route to Douglas, Connie’s vehicle collided with that of Ronald Popejoy’s (plaintiff). Connie died as a result of the accident. Fifteen months after the collision, Ronald experienced severe neck and back pain. He underwent two separate surgeries as a result and sought funds to finance the operations. Connie’s estate had already been probated and closed, so Ronald’s creditor’s claim was rejected. Ronald then filed a complaint against the estate of Connie’s deceased husband, William (defendant) under the joint enterprise theory. Ronald premised his theory on the belief that Connie was on a “business trip” to pick up a calf for the family ranch on the day of the fateful accident. Therefore, William was liable for Connie’s negligent driving as a member of the alleged joint enterprise. The trial court found that William had no financial or other interest in Connie’s trip to Douglas. The court found in favor of William’s estate. Ronald appealed.
Whether a joint enterprise exists between parties when there is no common pecuniary or financial interest in the profits of the transactions?
No, a common pecuniary interest must exist between William and Connie in the transaction of the calf in order for there to be a joint enterprise. Connie’s trip to purchase the calf was a family undertaking, not a joint enterprise. The calf was intended solely for the couple’s daughter to raise on the family ranch. Ronald failed to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists in order to survive the motion for summary judgment. Therefore, the trial court’s decision is affirmed.
The Restatement (Second) of Torts sets out a four-pronged test to determine whether a joint enterprise exists between parties. Those elements are: (1) an express or implied agreement, (2) a common purpose, (3) a pecuniary interest in that purpose, and (4) an equal right of control in the direction of the enterprise. Here, the evidence shows that the proceeds from the sale of the calf would have gone solely to William and Connie’s daughter. Therefore, it was only their daughter who possessed an actual pecuniary or financial interests in the profits of the sale of the calf. The court reaffirms that the the joint enterprise theory is limited to those ventures involving a distinct business or pecuniary purpose. Here, the trip to purchase the calf was a family undertaking.