Torts II, Pages 720–723

Popejoy v. Steinle

Supreme Court of Wyoming, 1991

Facts:

Mrs. Steinle was driving to buy her daughter a calf when she collided with plaintiff. Mrs. Steinle was killed and plaintiff received spinal injuries that required two neurosurgeries to fuse vertebrae. By the time plaintiff's surgeries were complete Mrs. Steinle's estate had been probated and closed. Plaintiff could not get it to be reopened and therefore sued the estate of Mr. Steinle, who had recently died of an unrelated illness.

Defendant's Argument:

The Steinle's were engaged in a joint venture when Mrs. Steinle went on a business trip to pick up the daughter's calf, and Mr. Steinle was therefor liable for her negligent driving.

Procedural History:

Trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that Mr. Steinle did not have a interest in the purpose of the trip to town justifying the imposition of vicarious liability.

Issue:

Were the Steinle's in a joint venture relationship at the time of the accident?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoJustia LogoPage 721

[T]he Restatement [(Second) of Torts § 491 comment c] . . . define[s] the four elements of a joint enterprise as:

  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.

Reasoning:

A joint venture is the same as a joint enterprise in this case. Mr. Steinle did not ordinarily have any interest in the animals the rest of his family purchased, and they regularly kept animals on their own. While Mr. Steinle bore the cost of the animals, the profits thereof went directly to his children. Thus, only the daughter had an actual pecuniary or financial interest in the profits of the calf that was to be purchased at the time of the accident, and this was not a joint venture.

Holding:

The Steinle's were not engaged in a joint venture when attempting to purchase the calf for their daughter. Affirmed.

Takeaway:

Bell: Vicarious liability may be imposed upon those engaged in a joint venture or enterprise.

Note:

This is the majority rule.

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