Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Stearns v. Emery-Waterhouse Co. case brief

Stearns v. Emery-Waterhouse Co. case brief summary
596 A.2d 72 (Me. 1991)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant appealed judgment in favor of plaintiff entered by the Superior Court, Cumberland County (Maine), in action alleging breach of an oral employment contract.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff claimed that defendant orally promised employment until age 55. Plaintiff resigned from his previous job and moved to a new state in preparation for the job. However, plaintiff was only employed for approximately two and a half years, and was terminated before he reached 55. Plaintiff sued defendant, alleging breach of an oral employment contract. Defendant's statute of frauds defense to the oral contract was rejected by the trial court, which held defendant was estopped from asserting the defense due to plaintiff's detrimental reliance on the oral promise.

DISCUSSION

  • The appellate court reversed, holding plaintiff could not avoid the statute of frauds based solely on his detrimental reliance on an oral employment contract. 
  • Rather, plaintiff had to produce clear and convincing evidence of fraud on defendant's part, which he did not do. 
  • In addition, the part performance doctrine did not apply in the employment context.

CONCLUSION
Judgment reversed, as plaintiff did not prove fraud on defendant's part in connection with oral employment contract as required to avoid application of statute of frauds; plaintiff's detrimental reliance on promise of employment was insufficient by itself to avoid the statute.


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