Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtBEACH; COMPTON, Acting P.J., and GATES
Citation156 Cal.App.3d 440,203 Cal.Rptr. 9
Parties, 119 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2517, 1 IER Cases 1713 Michael NEWFIELD, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE WEST, a California Corporation, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 68725.
Decision Date17 May 1984

Page 9

203 Cal.Rptr. 9
156 Cal.App.3d 440, 119 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2517, 1 IER Cases 1713
Michael NEWFIELD, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE WEST, a California Corporation, Defendant and Respondent.
Civ. 68725.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 2, California.
May 17, 1984.

Page 10

[156 Cal.App.3d 442] David S. Sperber, Encino, for plaintiff and appellant.

Haight, Dickson, Brown & Bonesteel, Peter Q. Ezzell, Roy G. Weatherup, and Robert L. Kaufman, Los Angeles, for defendant and respondent.

[156 Cal.App.3d 443] BEACH, Associate Justice.

NATURE OF APPEAL:

Appeal from judgment of dismissal without leave to amend upon sustaining of demurrer to complaint alleging wrongful termination of appellant as an employee of respondent. We affirm.

OUR HOLDING:

We hold (1) appellant did not plead sufficient facts to establish the tort of wrongful discharge nor to establish breach of an oral contract of employment; (2) any tort action would be barred by the one-year statute of limitations; and (3) the breach of oral contract would have been barred by the statute of frauds.

FACTS:

Appellant alleged that in October 1978 he entered an oral employment contract with respondent. In accepting employment appellant

Page 11

alleged that he left his job with another company; that he took a decrease in pay; that he increased his hours at work; and he commuted 70 miles round trip each day. He alleged further that a representation was made to him that he would have "a permanent career" with respondent. Also appellant alleged that he was terminated without just cause on October 17, 1980; that the termination occurred less than two years after his initial employment date; and that the termination was in breach of the alleged oral contract and of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Additionally, appellant alleged that defendants, William White and Carl Koch, "conspired" with respondent to terminate appellant's employment and "did wrongfully represent" that appellant "was not adequately performing his duties," and that appellant "was a detriment" to respondent. However, appellant on this appeal asserts that he stands or falls on the pleadings directed solely against respondent Insurance Company of the West. Therefore, there is no issue or problem before us relative to the sufficiency of allegations of conspiracy or any other liability of respondent for the conduct of its employees, White and Koch.

DISCUSSION:

A cause of action founded upon violation of public policy or a statute is a tort action. "[W]hen an employer's discharge of an employee [156 Cal.App.3d 444] violates fundamental principles of public policy, the discharged employee may maintain a tort action and recover damages traditionally available in such actions." (Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 Cal.3d 167, 170, 164 Cal.Rptr. 839, 610 P.2d 1330.)

In the instant case, there has been absolutely no allegation of any violation of any public policy or statute, and there can be none alleged.

There is no public policy that people are or should be entitled to permanent employment or that an employer is not entitled to discharge an employee. The law as set forth by statute reflects a contrary policy. The general rule codified in Labor Code section 2922 provides that "An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party...." 1

The first cause of action in the instant complaint is insufficient to state a cause of action in tort based on public policy or statutory violations. Accordingly, the cause of action must stand, if at all, upon contract law.

There are limitations on the exceptions that have been created under Labor Code section 2922. There must be a promise, express or implied, that there is a guarantee of continued employment so long as there is satisfactory service. (Patterson v. Philco Corp. (1967) 252 Cal.App.2d 63, 65, 60 Cal.Rptr. 110; Cleary v. American Airlines, Inc. (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 443, 450, 168 Cal.Rptr. 722). The sole allegation by the plaintiff in this regard is that he was promised "a permanent career." This type of promise has been considered by the courts in California and has been found to create only a contract terminable at will. "A contract for permanent employment is interpreted as a contract for an indefinite period and in the absence of statutory provisions or public policy considerations...

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38 practice notes
  • Foley v. Interactive Data Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1988
    ...at p. 341, 66 Cal.Rptr. 697, 438 P.2d 345.) Relying exclusively on its own decision in Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, the Court of Appeal here nevertheless held that plaintiff's alleged employment contract, if modified to include a promise ......
  • Newman v. Emerson Radio Corp., No. S009325
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 25, 1989
    ...the court heard defendant's motion in limine to exclude plaintiff's evidence, citing Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9 and Santa Monica Hospital v. Superior Court (1985) 204 Cal.App.3d 28, 218 Cal.Rptr. 543, review granted (1986) 222 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Hejmadi v. Amfac, Inc., No. A035675
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 27, 1988
    ...Co. v. Wolfson (1968) 68 Cal.2d 336, 344-346, 66 Cal.Rptr. 697, 438 P.2d 345.) However, in Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, the Court of Appeal held that the rule does not apply to a case such as this. In Newfield, the plaintiff alleged an or......
  • Barton v. New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., No. A071127
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 1996
    ...Cal.App.4th 140, 46 Cal.Rptr.2d 77, review granted January 18, 1996 (S050290). 3 See also Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 443, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, disapproved on other grounds in Foley, supra, 47 Cal.3d at p. 675, fn. 19, 254 Cal.Rptr. 211, 765 P.2d 373 [withou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Foley v. Interactive Data Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 29, 1988
    ...at p. 341, 66 Cal.Rptr. 697, 438 P.2d 345.) Relying exclusively on its own decision in Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, the Court of Appeal here nevertheless held that plaintiff's alleged employment contract, if modified to include a promise ......
  • Newman v. Emerson Radio Corp., No. S009325
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 25, 1989
    ...the court heard defendant's motion in limine to exclude plaintiff's evidence, citing Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9 and Santa Monica Hospital v. Superior Court (1985) 204 Cal.App.3d 28, 218 Cal.Rptr. 543, review granted (1986) 222 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Hejmadi v. Amfac, Inc., No. A035675
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 27, 1988
    ...Co. v. Wolfson (1968) 68 Cal.2d 336, 344-346, 66 Cal.Rptr. 697, 438 P.2d 345.) However, in Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, the Court of Appeal held that the rule does not apply to a case such as this. In Newfield, the plaintiff alleged an or......
  • Barton v. New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., No. A071127
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 1996
    ...Cal.App.4th 140, 46 Cal.Rptr.2d 77, review granted January 18, 1996 (S050290). 3 See also Newfield v. Insurance Co. of the West (1984) 156 Cal.App.3d 440, 443, 203 Cal.Rptr. 9, disapproved on other grounds in Foley, supra, 47 Cal.3d at p. 675, fn. 19, 254 Cal.Rptr. 211, 765 P.2d 373 [withou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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