Partnership Property & Continuation. Faegre & Benson, LLP v. R & R Investors (Minn. Ct. App. 2009)

Faegre & Benson, LLP v. R & R Investors, No. A08-1899 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2009) involves the same issue as Putnam v. Shoaf, 620 S.W.2d 510 (Tenn. App. 1981):  a dispute over a partnership claim against a third person after the sale of an interest in the partnership.  Putnam involved an unknown claim, while R & R Investors involved claims against the federal government related to a pending lawsuit in which the trial court had found in favor of the government. 

The partnership, R & R Investors, which owned and operated an apartment complex.  Over the years, several groups of partners came and went.  The “appellants” sold their interest in the business via several documents:

  1. a Purchase Agreement for the sale of the apartments and related personal property;
  2. an amendment to the partnership agreement transferring the selling partners’ interests in the partnership; and
  3. an indemnity agreement under which the purchasers assumed, and indemnified sellers against the obligations of the partnership.

Slip Op., at 5-6.  Unlike an earlier sale (id. at 4), no deeds or bills of sale seemed to have been used.  It is clear that the Purchase Agreement for the purchase and sale of the property was the primary document.  The Purchase Agreement provided that the purchase of the partnership was “[t]o facilitate the sale of this property”.  Id. at 5.

In Putnam, the Court rejected a claim that, because an existing, but unknown, claim was not included in the list of property being sold, the selling partner retained ownership of it.  The selling partners in R & R Investors took a different approach.  The sellers argued that

  • changes in partners dissolved the partnership,
  • the business was continued, but by a new partnership, and
  • the disputed claim was an undistributed asset of the earlier partnership.

Id. at 13-14.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that, under the Minnesota version of the UPA

we conclude that, absent agreement to the contrary, the partnership property of a dissolved partnership became the property of the partnership continuing the business without need for separate devise. We base our conclusion primarily on the former UPA’s treatment of partnership property and allowance for continuation of partnership businesses. Appellants’ reading of the former UPA would frustrate the purposes of these provisions.

Id. at 15-16.  Although the Court cited (Slip Op., at 16 n.6) only one portion of my article, The Entity-Aggregate Dispute:  Conceptualism and Formalism in Partnership Law,42 Ark. L. Rev. 395 (1989), its reasoning largely parallels my discussion of the treatment of partnership property in a continuation (id. at 427-43).

Gary Rosin

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