“I Don’t Want To Be Your Partner Anymore” …. Can That Statement End A Partnership?

After 5 years of litigation, two appeals, and one trial, the answer is…….Yes, that statement can constitute a valid offer to end a Connecticut partnership between two feuding sisters who had agreed in writing to split lottery winnings.  The story of the feuding sisters has been covered by Alaine Griffin at the Hartford Courant and the local news stations (NBC CT;   CBS NEWS).

According to yesterday’s ruling by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Cynthia Swienton, when one sister said "I don’t want to be your partner anymore" and the other said "okay," the partnership was over and the contract rescinded. 

The case involved a dispute between two sisters, Terry and Rose,  over a written contract that dated back to 1995.  Terry split some poker winnings ($165,000) with her sister Rose and decided they needed a contract to make sure there would be a split for any future winnings.  You might call the contract a  paper napkin partnership agreement, but it was notarized and drafted by an accountant.  It was simple and straightforward.  The relevant part of the contract read:

We are partners in any winning we shall receive, to be shared equally.

Fast forward to 2004 and a fight over $250.  The Court found that Terry said during the fight "I don’t want to be your partner anymore."  Rose replied "okay."  Rose then went and became partners with her brother, Joe.  Of course, Joe then went out and bought a $500,000 winning Powerball ticket.  Terry found out, Rose refused to pay Terry, and finally a lawsuit was filed for breach of contract.   

After going through the history of the relationship and finding credibility in favor of Rose, the Court found that Terry and Rose mutually agreed to rescind or cancel the contract on the basis of that exchange of words and the conduct of the sisters after the exchange.  Case closed, at least for now.  It is unclear if there will be any appeal.   

In reading the decision, I found it interesting that there was no mention of Connecticut’s partnership statute.  It is not clear if either party raised the statute in the case.  The case was decided on pure contractual grounds based on an agreement to rescind the contract.  Nevertheless, it also appears to me that the Court was swayed by more than just the exchange of words, but the actual conduct of the parties after the exchange.  In other words, you could say that they stopped acting like partners, they agreed not to be partners, and therefore, no partnership continued to exist.  

Interesting case, but also sad to see.  In the end, Terry’s frustration over $250 might have cost her not only a share of the $500,000 winning ticket, but the good relationship she had with her sister.