1) The vast majority of states hold that lifetime employment offers are not within the purview of the statute of frauds, and thus, do not have to memorialized in a writing. A small minority of states will require that these contracts be written down, but in the vast majority of instances, a verbal agreement will be enough. This is because, according to the Statute of Frauds, contracts that cannot be completed within one year must be memorialized in a writing. While it might seem like a lifetime employment contract is something that could not be completed in a single year, this is actually not the case. There exists, of course, the small possibility that the person in question could pass away within the calendar year. If that were to take place, then the contract would be completed by both sides within a single year. If even the slightest possibility exists that a contract could be completed within a single year, then the contract does not fall under the jurisdiction of the statute of frauds. Assuming that this case is being decided in a majority view state, a court would almost certainly honor the contract, granted that all other factors of contract formation are present. 2) The promissory estoppel exception is the one that he would need to rely on in this instance. According to the principles of promissory estoppel, if a personal justifiably relies upon a contract that could otherwise not be enforced, then the court can order performance of that contract. This is done in the interests of public policy to ensure fairness in situations where the court deems that not honoring the contract would violate notions of fairness held by the court. In this case, the man relied upon the contract in turning down another offer of employment. The question would be whether his reliance on the contract was justified. It most likely would be found to be justified. He believed that he had an offer of employment for life, that included a raise, and in addition to that, he believed he could not be fired unless something went badly wrong. It was also reasonable to believe that the offer of employment was a real, legitimate, and enforceable one, and the man making the offer knew that he would rely on the offer. For this reason, a court is likely to find that promissory estoppel could ensure that the performance must happen.
3) In all likelihood, this kind of writing would not be enough to constitute a writing that would allow enforcement of the contract under the statute of frauds. There are a couple of different problems with this writing, with one being the most obvious and problematic. According to the facts, the contract was not signed by the party that it was going to be enforced against. This is one thing that has to be present. The part that is going have the contract enforced against them must affix some mark – a signature in this case – to show that they consent to being held to the contours of the agreement. Beyond that, it is likely that there are not enough details in this writing. While not everything has to be written down in order for a writing to be proper, there does have to be sufficient detail so that the court can decipher what the contract is referring to. This is not the case with this writing in all likelihood. It does not specify what the contract is about, though it does show the two key additions to the man’s existing agreement. In all likelihood, with both of these factors taken into account, it would not be enough.
- Leacock, S. J. (2011). Fingerprints of Equitable Estoppel and Promissory Estoppel on the Statute of Frauds in Contract Law.
- McIntosh, C. M. (2012). CPLR 3211: Admission that Contract Existed Does Not Defeat Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Based on Statute of Frauds Defense. St. John’s Law Review, 59(3), 11.
- Murray, J. E. (2011). Corbin on Contracts: Desk Edition. LexisNexis.