Condelles v. Alabama Telecasters, Inc., WAKA-T

Citation530 So.2d 201
Decision Date22 July 1988
Docket NumberWAKA-T,C
PartiesJames CONDELLES v. ALABAMA TELECASTERS, INC., d/b/ahannel 8, et al. 87-302.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Jim L. DeBardelaben of McPhillips, DeBardelaben & Hawthorne, Montgomery, for appellant.

George B. Azar of Azar & Azar and Izas Bahakel of Bahakel & Bahakel, Birmingham, for appellees.

MADDOX, Justice.

The plaintiff in this case, James Condelles, accepted a job offer from the defendant, Alabama Telecasters, Inc., d/b/a WAKA-TV ("WAKA"). Condelles was hired to be a weekday news reporter and the weekend anchorman for WAKA, a Montgomery television station. After he began working for WAKA in January 1986, Condelles signed a contract containing a noncompetition clause. In March 1986, Condelles was fired by Frank Morock, the general manager and news director of WAKA. The parties dispute the reason for the firing, but the reason is not pertinent to this appeal.

After he was fired, other local stations refused to hire Condelles due to the existence of the noncompetition agreement. (He was hired by WHNT-TV in Huntsville in June 1986.) Condelles filed this action against WAKA, Morock, and Lorraine Lancaster, senior vice-president of Alabama Telecasters, seeking damages for breach of contract and fraud. In short, Condelles contended that he had a one-year employment contract with WAKA and that he was fired in violation of it. He also claimed that the defendants had misrepresented to him that he would be the anchorman of their weekend news broadcast and that they had misrepresented to him that the noncompetition agreement would not apply unless he left of his own accord. The trial judge granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied Condelles's subsequent motion to alter, amend, or vacate that judgment. Condelles then brought this appeal.

Our rule of review of a summary judgment is well settled. Summary judgment is proper only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Ala.R.Civ.P. If there is a scintilla of evidence to support the position of the nonmoving party, summary judgment can not be granted. Cole v. First National Bank of Tuskaloosa, 485 So.2d 717, 719 (Ala.1986). A scintilla has been defined as a "mere gleam, glimmer, spark, the least particle, the smallest trace." Howard v. Crowder, 496 So.2d 31, 32 (Ala.1986). On review of a summary judgment, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, here Condelles. Pranzo v. ITEC, Inc., 521 So.2d 983, 984 (Ala.1988). We hold that the trial judge properly granted summary judgment as to both claims in this case.

First, Condelles claimed that he had a one-year employment contract with WAKA and that the station breached that contract by firing him. He based this assertion on a letter he received from Morock:

"This letter is an official offer of employment at WAKA to be effective December 15, 1985. The salary is $350/week, to be reviewed at the end of one year employment.

"If the offer of employment is accepted, you will be required to sign a non-compete statement and a statement agreeing to pro-rate the moving expense over a 12-month period, should you leave by your choice before completion of one year employment. For example, if you decided to leave WAKA after only four months of work at the station, you would owe us two-thirds of the moving expense provided by WAKA.

"The offer of employment is for weekend anchor/weekday reporter, when weekend news operation begins in January."

Condelles argues that this letter supplied the necessary scintilla of evidence in support of his claim that he had a one-year employment contract with WAKA. We hold that there is not a scintilla of evidence in this case that a one-year employment contract existed.

After the date of this letter, Condelles signed an employment contract with WAKA that clearly stated that he was to be an at-will employee:

"The parties acknowledge that Employee is employed at the will of WAKA, and nothing contained herein is intended to create an employment relationship for any set term or duration or an employment relationship that is not an 'at-will' relationship."

This contract also contained a merger clause just above the signatures:

"This agreement comprises the entire understanding of the parties relating to the matters herein, no prior representations having been made by either party. This agreement cannot be modified except in a writing signed by the party upon whom enforcement is sought."

The facts of this case are similar to those in Pranzo v. ITEC, Inc., 521 So.2d 983, 985 (Ala.1988). In that case the employee, Pranzo, had been fired by ITEC, Inc., after signing a document with an employment-at-will clause. Pranzo claimed breach of contract, and this Court held:

"With regard to Pranzo's arguments that ITEC breached its covenant or contract with him and that he was wrongfully terminated, we likewise find no error. Pranzo executed the document with the employment-at-will clause in it before beginning work at ITEC. Therefore, '[any oral agreements] would have merged into the subsequent written employment contract.' Because '[a]n at will employment contract is terminable by either party for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all,' we are constrained to uphold the circuit court's judgment on Pranzo's claims."

(Citations omitted.)

Like the employee in Pranzo, Condelles, signed a document containing an employment-at-will clause and a merger clause. In Colafrancesco v. Crown Pontiac-GMC, Inc., 485 So.2d 1131 (Ala.1986), we discussed the effect of a contract containing a merger clause:

" 'Once a contract between two parties is reduced to writing, absent mistake or fraud, the courts must construe the contract as written. "Furthermore in the absence of ambiguity the court cannot interpret the contract but must take it as it is written...." '


"... Furthermore, the contract contained a merger clause, which provides: 'The above comprises the entire agreement pertaining to this purchase and no other agreement of any kind,...

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4 cases
  • Ex parte McNaughton
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • August 28, 1998
    ...employment is sufficient consideration to make an employee's promise to his employer binding. For example, in Condelles v. Alabama Telecasters, Inc., 530 So.2d 201, 204 (Ala.1988), this Court stated that "continued [at-will] employment is sufficient consideration for signing a noncompetitio......
  • Schimenti Constr. Co. v. Schimenti
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • January 17, 2023
    ...likewise have determined that continued employment may serve as consideration in this context. See, e.g., Condelles v. Alabama Telecasters, Inc. , 530 So. 2d 201, 204 (Ala. 1988) ; Lucht's Concrete Pumping, Inc. v. Horner , 255 P.3d 1058, 1059–60 (Colo. 2011) ; Breed v. National Credit Assn......
  • Schimenti Constr. Co. v. Schimenti
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • January 17, 2023
    ......Oxford Performance Materials,. Inc., 153 Conn.App. 50, 100 A.3d 917 (2014),. . 6 . ... consideration in this context. See, e.g., Condelles v. Alabama Telecasters, Inc., 530 So.2d 201, 204 ......
  • AMERIQUEST MORTG. CO., INC. v. Bentley
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 27, 2002
    ...true when the contract, by its terms, extends beyond the termination of employment. For example, in both Condelles v. Alabama Telecasters, Inc., 530 So.2d 201, 204 (Ala.1988), and Daughtry v. Capital Gas Co., 285 Ala. 89, 93, 229 So.2d 480, 483 (1969), we held that continued at-will employm......

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