Law School Case Brief
Duffy v. Piazza Constr. - 62 Wash. App. 19, 815 P.2d 267 (1991)
A joint venturer is not liable to his associates for damages caused by his mistakes of business judgment. He may be liable for his negligence if it causes injury to the person or property of the other joint venturer or if the venture calls for him to exercise a particular or extraordinary degree of diligence and skill.
Brothers Richard and James Duffy signed a Joint Venture Agreement with John Piazza, president of Piazza Construction, Inc., regarding a United States Forest Service request for proposals for office facilities in Washington. Piazza’s bid had been rejected as nonresponsive because the proposal did not meet the minimum square footage requirements. The Duffys then filed a complaint against Piazza, alleging that the latter was negligent in the preparation of its bid and that it was liable to them for the lost profits that they had expected. Subsequently, Piazza filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that a joint venture partner may not maintain an action for negligence against another joint venture partner when the alleged negligence was committed within the scope of the joint venture business, was not the result of bad faith, and did not result in physical injury to person or property. Piazza’s motion was granted, and the Duffys’ complaint against Piazza was dismissed. The Duffys appealed.
Did the trial court err when it granted summary judgment in favor of Piazza and dismissed the Duffys' complaint with prejudice?
The Court of Appeals of Washington affirmed, concluding that because Piazza was a joint venturer with the Duffys, he could not be liable to them for damages caused by mistakes of business judgment. Because the Duffys did not allege a breach of Piazza’s duty of good faith, or that they suffered physical injury to themselves or their property as a result of his negligence, the trial court's dismissal was proper.
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