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Fisher v. Jackson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of an oral agreement of employment. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An agreement for permanent employment, without a definite term as to time, is a hiring for an indefinite term that either party may terminate at will.

    Facts.

    A newspaper (Defendant) placed an ad for a permanent position as a reporter. An employee (Plaintiff) was interviewed and hired for the position. Plaintiff left his job at a bakery to begin working as a reporter. Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of an oral agreement of employment, arguing (1) that there was an oral contract that his employment would be for life and (2) that he suffered a loss when he left his job at the bakery. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an agreement for permanent employment, without a definite term as to time, is a hiring for an indefinite term that either party may terminate at will.

    Held.

    Yes. The trial court’s ruling is reversed and the mater is remanded for entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict for Defendant.

    Discussion.

    An agreement for permanent employment, that does not include a definite term as to time, is deemed a hiring for an indefinite term that either party may terminate at will, unless the parties provide special consideration in addition to what is necessary for the employment. Here, despite its label as permanent, Plaintiff’s hiring was indefinite as to time and therefore terminable by either party at will. In addition, Plaintiff giving up his job at the bakery was not special consideration in exchange for a promise of employment, but simply the action that was necessary for him to accept the employment and perform in his position. To constitute consideration, there must be not only a detriment, but the detriment must be bargained for in exchange for a promise. Here, there is no indication that Defendant required or asked Plaintiff to leave his job at the bakery to take the position as a reporter.


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