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Akers v. J.B. Sedberry, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiffs sued Defendant, alleging that their offer to resign was not accepted by Defendant and was therefore rejected. The trial court ruled for Plaintiffs. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An offer is rejected when the offeror is justified in inferring from the words or conduct of the offeree that the offeree intends not to accept the offer or to take it under further advisement.

    Facts.

    Akers and Whitsitt (Plaintiffs) worked for J.B. Sedberry, Inc. (Defendant) under employment contracts. With the company experiencing financial distress, Plaintiffs attended a conference with Mrs. Sedberry and offered their resignations on ninety-day notice, provided they were paid according to their contracts for that period. Mrs. Sedberry did not accept the resignations and continued the conference discussing business for the rest of the day. Less than one week later Mrs. Sedberry sent Plaintiffs telegrams accepting their resignations effective immediately. Plaintiffs sued claiming that their offer to resign was not accepted by Defendant at the conference and was therefore rejected. The trial court ruled for Plaintiffs and awarded damages. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an employment contract is terminated when the employer does not immediately accept or take under further advisement employee’s offer to resign.

    Held.

    No. The trial court’s ruling is affirmed. An offer is rejected when the offeror is justified in inferring from the words or conduct of the offeree that the offeree intends not to accept the offer or to take it under further advisement.

    Discussion.

    An offer may be terminated in a number of ways, 1)where it is immediately rejected by the offeree; 2) where it is not accepted by him within a fixed time; or 3) if no time is fixed, within a reasonable time. In this matter, Plaintiffs made the offer to resign at the outset of the conference, and they made it clear that they expected an answer immediately. Mrs. Sedberry continued the conference as if no offers had been made, nor did her express or implied conduct indicate that she wished to consider the offers further. Plaintiffs were therefore justified in inferring that Mrs. Sedberry had rejected their offers of resignation. Thus the telegrams purporting to accept Plaintiffs’ offers of resignation referred to offers that had been rejected. 


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