Partnership Dissolution: Illinois Basics

Cross v. O’Heir, 2013 IL App (3d) 120760 spotlights a dispute over the division of partnership property.

The plaintiff’s husband (who died before lawsuit was filed) entered a written partnership with the defendant to develop property.

A few years later, and unbeknownst to plaintiff’s husband, the defendant signed a cross-easement agreement with some adjacent owners to provide vehicle and pedestrian access over three parcels that were allotted to the defendant after he and plaintiff’s husband began dividing up the partnership real estate.

The plaintiff, as executor of her husband’s estate, filed suit for a declaration that the cross-easement agreement benefitted her property (adjacent to the defendant’s three parcels) and defendant counter-sued to dissolve the partnership and for an accounting.

The court entered summary judgment for the defendant and on defendant’s dissolution action.  After a bench trial on damages, the court entered a money judgment of about $40K for the defendant and the plaintiff appealed.

(¶¶ 17-19).

The Court affirmed summary judgment on the defendant’s partnership dissolution counterclaim.

The dissolution of a partnership means a change in the relation of the partners caused by any party ceasing to be associated in the carrying on of the partnership’s business.

 A partnership can be dissolved by judicial order or by operation of law.  Death of a partner normally dissolves a partnership unless the partnership agreement says otherwise. 

Judicial dissolution can be granted upon a partner’s application if the court finds that the partnership business can’t be carried out in accordance with the partnership agreement.  (¶¶ 32-33); 805 ILCS 206/801(5). 

After dissolution, each partner is entitled to a settlement of partnership accounts and a partner’s right to an accounting accrues on the date of dissolution.  A dissolution action can be brought in tandem with an accounting suit.  (¶ 34), 805 ILCS 206/807(b). 

Following dissolution, each partner must contribute to the partnership, amounts equal to any surplus funds (over credits) in the partnership’s account to pay creditors.  In addition, the estate of a deceased partner is liable for the partner’s obligation to contribute to the partnership.  805 ILCS 206/807(b), (e).

The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s dissolution action was untimely since the partnership “constructively dissolved” when it stopped doing business twelve years before the lawsuit was filed.  The Court disagreed, noting that at the time defendant filed its dissolution action, the partnership still owned property.  It wasn’t until 2011 when the last of the partnership property – the two outlots – was finally transferred.  Until those two lots were disposed of, a dissolution and accounting suit was still timely.  (¶¶ 36-37).

Afterwords:

–  A partnership agreement can provide that the partnership continues after the death of a partner;

– If a partnership has ceased doing business, a partner can still bring a dissolution action so long as there is partnership property at the time the dissolution suit is filed;

– A deceased partner’s estate is liable to the partnership for the deceased partner’s contribution to the partnership after dissolution.

 

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PaulP

Litigation attorney at Fisher Kanaris, P.C. representing businesses and individuals in all types of commercial disputes.