Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Is an LLC Member Labeled as a Partner Personally Liable for LLC Debts?

If one is going to ignore entity distinctions, I supposed one may as well go all in.  Following is from an opinion issued last week that involves Christeyns Laundry Technology, LLC (“Christeyns”), which is a limited liability company.  The opinion, though, asserts: 

Selective is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. [Docket No. 1-1, ¶ 2.] Christeyns is a Limited Liability Corporation with two partners: Christeyns Holding, Inc., and Rudi Moors. [Docket No. 25, at 14, ¶ 7.] Christeyns Holding, Inc., is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. [Id. at 14, ¶ 8.] Rudi Moors is a resident of South-Easton, Massachusetts. [Id. at 14, ¶ 9.] The remaining parties’ claims arise out of a common nucleus of operative fact.

SELECTIVE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. CHRISTEYNS LAUNDRY TECHNOLOGY, LLC, et al., Defendants. Additional Party Names: Clean Green Textile Servs., LLC, Lavatec Laundry Tech., Inc., Single Source Laundry Sol., No. CV1911723RMBAMD, 2020 WL 6194015, at *3 n.2 (D.N.J. Oct. 22, 2020) (emphasis added).

We have already established that an LLC is a limited liability company, and not a corporation. And while the opinion seems to track the diversity requirements of corporation and an LLC correctly, LLCs are not partnerships, and thus do not have partners, either.  LLCs are made up of members. Referring to them as members clearly connotes limited liability protections that are generally provide to members of an LLC, while the generic "partner" could imply that each "partner" faces unlimited liability for the debts and obligations of a "partnership." 

Similarly, another case from last week made the following observation about a witness:

"Ernest Thompson is listed as "GEN. PART" of M Nadlan LLC per DHPD records. The court takes this to mean General Partner of the Limited Liability Corporation."

 Yolanda Martinez, Petitioner, M Nadlan LLC, Respondent., No. 41219/2019, 2020 WL 6166864, at *3 n.3 (N.Y. Civ. Ct. Oct. 21, 2020) (emphasis added).

Again with the mixing of entities.  In fairness, the court did not label Mr. Thompson as "GEN. PART." Someone else did.  But the court did refer to the LLC as a corporation.  Once again, although I know LLCs sometimes adopt partnership terms, they should not.  And yet again, here, "general partner" could imply personal liability for entity debts on the part of Mr. Thompson, evening though it is more likely he is a managing member of the LLC.  If you are listed as a general partner, that holding out could be deemed to be a form or personal guarantee, at least where one could plausibly claim reliance.  Moreover, it's just bad form.  

Anyway, it's possible, and maybe even likely, that courts would uphold limited liability protections for these LLC members who are listed as partners. But why take the risk of having to find out?  

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2020/10/is-as-llc-member-labeled-as-a-partner-personally-liable-for-llc-debts.html

Corporations, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs | Permalink

Comments

" The court takes this to mean General Partner of the Limited Liability Corporation." This hurt my soul

Posted by: Elaine Wilson | Oct 27, 2020 1:14:50 PM

A reminder that members of an LLC can be partners by estoppel if they do dumb things like calling themselves partners and not including "LLC" everywhere they can. It's the members' job to make sure they present themselves as members, not partners.

Posted by: Frank Snyder | Oct 27, 2020 3:12:33 PM