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Forrer v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Forrer (Plaintiff) claimed he was promised “permanent employment” as manager of the hardware department of a Sears, Roebuck & Company (Defendant) store in Madison, Wisconsin.  Plaintiff sought damages for the alleged items he sold at a loss in order to work for the Defendant, only to be discharged without cause.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In order to support a claim for promissory estoppel, the following three questions must be answered affirmatively:  1] Was the promise one which the promissory should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee? 2] Did the promise induce such action or forbearance? 3] Can injustice be avoided only by enforcement of the promise? 

    Facts.

    In order to support a claim for promissory estoppel, the following three questions must be answered affirmatively:  1] Was the promise one which the promissory should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee? 2] Did the promise induce such action or forbearance? 3] Can injustice be avoided only by enforcement of the promise? 

    Issue.

    Was Plaintiff entitled to relief based on promissory estoppel?

    Held.

    No.  Order affirmed. 

    Justice did not require invocation of promissory estoppel because the promise was kept.
    Where the term “permanent employment” is used, the assumption will be that the parties have in mind merely the ordinary business contract for continuing employment, terminable at the will of either party.
    The most promised by Sears was employment terminable at will.  Therefore, the Plaintiff failed to spell out a cause of action for breach of contract.

    Dissent.

    None.

    Concurrence.

    None.

    Discussion.

    “Permanent employment” merely amounts to an indefinite general hiring terminable at the will of either party, and the Plaintiff’s discharge without cause did not constitute a breach of contract justifying recovery of damages. 


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