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Embry v. Hargadine, McKittrick Dry Goods Co.

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Plaintiff, Embry (Plaintiff), worked for the Defendant, Hargadine, McKittrick Dry Goods Co. (Defendant).  The Plaintiff’s contract expired in December and he met with Defendant’s President to renew it for a year.  The President said “go ahead, you’re all right; get your men out and don’t let that worry you.” The contract was terminated a few months later.  The Plaintiff brought suit based on breach of contract.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If a reasonable person would understand the oral promise to be an agreement for employment, then it is a valid contract.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff met with the President of the Defendant Corporation and stated he would be forced to quit if he was not guaranteed another contract for the upcoming year.  The president responded “go ahead, you’re all right; get your men out and don’t let that worry you.”  Plaintiff thought the contract was renewed and continued employment.  The President later denied making the comment and never intended to renew the contract, but just address the issue at a later date.

    Issue.

    Was the oral promise by the Defendant Corporation’s president a valid contract?

    Held.

    Yes. Reversed. 

    If the conversation happened as Plaintiff said and Plaintiff understood that he was employed, then there was a valid contract in law.  It is only necessary that a reasonable man would have construed what the President said to be an offer of employment offer and that Plaintiff so understood it. 

    “In exceptional cases, a promisor may be bound to perform something which he did not intend to promise, or a promisee may not be entitled to require that performance which he understood to be promised to him.”

    Discussion.

    The court looks to the expressed intention of the parties to determine if the contract was valid.  The court uses a reasonable standard to decide whether the Plaintiff had a right to take the words as a renewal.


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