Ohio Table Pad Co. of Indiana, Inc. v. Hogan

Decision Date30 July 1981
Docket NumberNo. 3-180A10,3-180A10
Citation424 N.E.2d 144
PartiesOHIO TABLE PAD CO. OF INDIANA, INC., Defendant-Appellant, v. Audrey HOGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

John M. Clifton, Jr., Alan Verplanck, Barrett, Barrett & McNagny, Fort Wayne, Leroy K. Schultess, LaGrange, for defendant-appellant.

Herbert E. Boase, C. Susan Glick, LaGrange, for plaintiff-appellee.

GARRARD, Judge.

In 1973 Audrey Hogan (the employee) resided in Fort Wayne where she was employed as secretary to the chief water pollution and control engineer for the city. In response to an advertisement in a Fort Wayne newspaper she wrote a letter of application for the job of Branch Office Manager Trainee with Ohio Table Pad Co. (the company). In the letter she stated, "My interest is in finding a steady position to carry me through the balance of my working years, and I believe I could offer you loyalty and ability."

She was subsequently interviewed and was offered the job. According to her testimony she reiterated at the interview that she was looking for a job "that would last me until I was ready to retire," and that she expected to work until she reached sixty-two (62) years of age. She was told that if she accepted the job the company desired her to move to LaGrange, Indiana, where the office she was to work in was located. The company agreed to pay her traveling expenses until she could locate a new residence and also agreed to pay her moving expenses.

She went to work for the company on May 21, 1973. On July 9, 1976 she was discharged. She then commenced this action for damages contending breach of her contract of employment. A jury awarded her $57,000 and the company appeals. 1

We initially note that the parties are not fully agreed as to whether the employee's theory of the case stated a contract for a term of years or one for a "lifetime" or "permanent" employment. 2 This uncertainty is said to arise from the facts that the employee sought employment only until she was ready to retire; that she indicated she expected to retire at age sixty-two; and that a fixed number of years could be deduced by subtracting from sixty-two her age at the time the employment commenced.

The contract was an indefinite one and, as such, was not rendered unenforceable by the statute of frauds. While the employee indicated a desire to work until she was "ready" to retire and indicated that she "expected" to retire at age sixty-two, under the evidence she was not committed to do either. Thus, considering only the evidence favorable to her position, the employment contract must be treated as one for an indefinite term.

As such it was terminable at the will of either party unless it was supported by independent consideration. Seco Chemicals, Inc. v. Stewart (1976), 169 Ind.App. 624, 349 N.E.2d 733. If there was such consideration, then in the absence of mutual agreement the company could only terminate the employee for good cause without incurring liability for its action. Seco Chemicals, supra; Mt. Pleasant Coal Co. v. Watts (1926), 91 Ind.App. 501, 151 N.E. 7.

The trial court instructed the jury that either the giving up of a job, business or profession or the removal of the employee's family from one place to another would constitute sufficient independent consideration to create a contract of permanent employment so that the employee could only be discharged for "good cause." We disagree.

Indiana courts early recognized that independent consideration to support a contract of permanent employment existed where the employee surrendered or released a claim for personal injuries he had sustained at the hands of the contract employer. Carter v. Richart (1919), 65 Ind.App. 255, 114 N.E. 110; American Car & Foundry Co. v. Smock (1910), 48 Ind.App. 359, 91 N.E. 749, reh. den. 48 Ind.App. 371, 93 N.E. 78; Illinois C.R. Co. v. Fairchild (1910), 48 Ind.App. 300, 91 N.E. 836, reh. den. 93 N.E. 176; Pennsylvania Co. v. Dolan (1892), 6 Ind.App. 109, 32 N.E. 802. We have also found independent consideration to exist where the employee assigned a valuable coal lease to the employer in return for the offered employment. Mt. Pleasant Coal Co. v. Watts (1926), 91 Ind.App. 501, 151 N.E. 7.

Other jurisdictions have reached similar conclusions and have occasionally found the existence of independent consideration from circumstances attending the employee's cessation of his prior employment. Illustrative of such instances are Carnig v. Carr (1897), 167 Mass. 544, 46 N.E. 117 where the employee was induced to abandon his own competing business to enter the employment, and Collins v. Parsons College (Iowa 1973), 203 N.W.2d 594 where the employee was induced to surrender an existing "permanent" employment and the employer was made expressly aware that he was unwilling to do so except for permanent employment. 3 The cases are the subject of a thorough annotation appearing in 60 A.L.R.3d 226.

From them emerge the two following general rules with which we agree: (1) The acts and actions involved in moving one's household to a new location, while sufficient to constitute consideration for an agreement to provide moving allowances or expenses, will not constitute independent consideration to support a contract of permanent employment so as to impose the requirement of good...

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38 cases
  • Gries v. Zimmer, Inc., C-C-87-0576-P
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of North Carolina
    • February 28, 1989
    ...term in excess of one year, then Indiana's statute of frauds would be implicated. Ind.Code § 32-2-1-1; Ohio Table Pad Co. v. Hogan, 424 N.E.2d 144, 145 & n. 2 (Ind.Ct.App.1981); Whiteco Indus., Inc. v. Kopani, 514 N.E.2d 840 (Ind.Ct.App.1987). Plaintiffs have simply alleged that their emplo......
  • Rice v. Rent-A-Center of America, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • May 28, 1987
    ...her first day at Pepsi, however, she was fired. She had no contract claim against Pepsi because, under Ohio Table Pad Co. of Indiana, Inc. v. Hogan, 424 N.E.2d 144 (Ind.App.1981), her relinquishment of her previous employment did not constitute sufficient consideration for an enforceable co......
  • Mart v. Forest River, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • February 22, 2012
    ...assurance from employer of receiving the same protections in the new job could provide adequate consideration); Ohio Table Pad Co. v. Hogan, 424 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.Ct.App.1981) (an employee abandoning his own competing business could provide adequate consideration); Mt. Pleasant Coal Co. ......
  • Gordon v. Matthew Bender & Co., Inc.
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    • April 29, 1983
    ...— it says nothing whatsoever about the duration of his employment, permanent or otherwise. Further, cases such as Heuvelman, Titchener, Ohio Table Pad, and Edwards, which demonstrate that a plaintiff's giving up job opportunities altogether is not sufficient consideration, surely show that ......
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