Popejoy v. Steinle

820 P.2d 545 (Wyo. 1991)



The four elements of a joint enterprise are: (1) an agreement, express or implied, among the members of the group; (2) a common purpose to be carried out by the group; (3) a community of pecuniary interest in that purpose, among the members; and (4) an equal right to a voice in the direction of the enterprise, which gives an equal right of control.


The wife of appellee deceased husband's estate was involved in an accident during a trip to buy her daughter a calf for the daughter to raise on the family ranch. Appellant driver of the truck they collided with sustained injuries initially diagnosed as muscle strain. One week after the accident, deceased husband completed the calf purchase for his daughter. The calf was raised on the family ranch and sold the following year. The daughter received the proceeds from the sale. Approximately fifteen months after the accident,  appellant began experiencing severe pain in his neck and back and had to undeergo two separate neurosurgeries. Following the second surgical procedure, appellant attempted unsuccessfully to reopen the deceased wife's estate.  Appellants thereafter filed a claim against the personal representatives of the now deceased husband's estate. The appellants sought to impute the deceased wife's alleged negligence to her now deceased husband's estate by claiming that the two were engaged in a joint venture relationship at the time of the accident - when the deceased wife embarked on her "business trip" to pick up the daughter's calf. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee. On appeal,the court affirmed.


Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment on the issue of the joint venture relationship between the spouses?




The court found that the trip lacked the pecuniary, commercial and business aspects of a joint enterprise to create vicarious liability in the appellees. There was absent the contract, a profit motive and equal right of control found in and required by the business relationship of a joint enterprise. Any attempt to warp such a relationship to fit a social event would be unbecoming of the law.

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