The Richmond Register

October 26, 2013

The Case of the shapely partner

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — Sam was the victim of a blisskrieg. After meeting the shapely Helen, he couldn't sleep, eat or even think about playing the ponies, his favorite pastime.

He was so smitten with her, in fact, that he finally packed his bags, left his wife and set up housekeeping with his Helen of Joy. As security for her future, he promised her that she would be his equal partner in any business venture in which he might engage.

Thereafter, Sam did nothing but roll sevens. Every deal he entered into proved to be a winner, and he ended up a very wealthy guy. The thorn in Helen's side, however, was Sam's wife, who claimed his entire estate as his widow when he died.

“You may be his widow,” conceded Helen in court. “But, I was his partner. That was our agreement. Consequently, half of everything he owned belongs to me.”

“While you might be entitled to dish pan hands, that's about all to which you're entitled,” responded Sam's widow. “While there is a word for what you are, it's not partner.”

If you were the judge, would you give half of Sam's estate to Helen as his partner?

Here's how the judge ruled: No. The judge held that to have a partnership, each partner must contribute something to the partnership. In this case, concluded the judge, Helen's only possible contribution was her living with Sam illegally, and an illegal contribution is no contribution.

Based on a 1954 Florida District Court of Appeals decision.