Construction companies, especially those engaged in large public works or private development projects, sometimes form joint ventures to pool their resources and perform work on jobs that might be beyond their individual financial capabilities or technical expertise. Typically, the joint venture is formed for an individual project. As a result, the formation of the joint venture is often not addressed with the same degree of formality and care as when a corporate entity is formed on a more permanent basis. Recently, in Slabakis v. Schik, 164 A.D.3d 454, 84 N.Y.S.3d 45 (1 st Dep’t 2018), the First Department addressed the requirements of forming a joint venture in the context of a dispute as to whether a proper joint venture had been formed.
The plaintiff in Slabakis alleged there was an oral joint venture agreement, and sued the defendant, its purported joint venture partner, for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and related wrongs. Defendant moved to dismiss, alleging that the complaint did not adequately allege the existence of a joint venture agreement. The trial level court denied the motion, holding that there was an issue of fact as to the viability of the complaint.
On appeal, the First Department reversed and dismissed the complaint, holding that the pleading was defective in two material respects. First, the Slabakis complaint failed to contain a mutual promise that profits and losses would be shared to some degree. Instead, it indicated that all of the losses would be solely borne by the defendant. This was “fatal” to plaintiff’s claim that a joint venture was created.