Schuermann v. American KA-RO Corp., KA-RO

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtNESS
Citation367 S.E.2d 159,295 S.C. 64
Parties, 3 IER Cases 456 Heiner J. SCHUERMANN, Appellant, v. AMERICANCORPORATION,Werke K.H. Rost KG, and Karl H. Rost, Respondents. . Heard
Docket NumberKA-RO,No. 22858
Decision Date03 February 1988

Page 159

367 S.E.2d 159
295 S.C. 64, 3 IER Cases 456
Heiner J. SCHUERMANN, Appellant,
v.
AMERICAN KA-RO CORPORATION, KA-RO Werke K.H. Rost KG, and
Karl H. Rost, Respondents.
No. 22858.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard Feb. 3, 1988.
Decided April 4, 1988.

[295 S.C. 65] James H. Watson and Kenneth E. Young, Leatherwood, Walker, Todd & Mann, Greenville, for appellant.

L. Gray Geddie and Phillip A. Kilgore, of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Greenville, for respondents.

NESS, Chief Justice:

This is a contract interpretation case. Appellant (Employee) contends the trial court erred in denying him severance benefits under his employment contract with respondent (Company). We affirm as modified.

Employee seeks to recover under three sections of the contract: (1) section 2, which entitles Employee to a year end bonus equal to one month's salary; (2) section 6, which requires each party to give six months' notice of termination; and (3) section 7, a non-competition clause which provides that Company will pay Employee 75% of his monthly salary for two years after

Page 160

termination in exchange for Employee's promise not to compete.

Employee concedes that he was terminated for cause and acknowledges the general rule that an employee's termination for cause extinguishes his right to receive any benefits under his employment contract. Meredith v. Mt. Pleasant Boat Bldg. Co., 286 S.C. 115, 333 S.E.2d 565 (1985); Freeman[295 S.C. 66] v. King Pontiac Co., 236 S.C. 335, 114 S.E.2d 478 (1960). He contends, however, that the parties intended to change that rule in this contract. He argues that since section 8 of the contract provides that Employee will receive certain benefits unless he is fired for cause, the failure of the contract to condition benefits under sections 2, 6, and 7 on "no-fault" termination demonstrates the parties' intent to give Employee these benefits even if he is terminated for cause.

We agree that use of the term just cause in section 8 rendered the parties' intent ambiguous. Ordinarily, intent is a jury question. Westminster Co. v. Wingo, 286 S.C. 244, 332 S.E.2d 570 (Ct.App.1985). Here the parties tried the question to the judge by consent. His finding will be upheld if supported by any competent evidence in the record. Townes Associates, Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 221 S.E.2d 773 (1976).

The judge found Employee failed to prove the parties intended to change the general rule in their contract....

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2 practice notes
  • Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, Inc., No. 2697
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 5, 1997
    ...benefits and certain types of compensation owed to him upon breach of the duty of loyalty. See, e.g., Schuermann v. American KA-RO Corp., 295 S.C. 64, 66, 367 S.E.2d 159, 160 (1988); Berry, 270 S.C. at 492, 242 S.E.2d at 553 (decided under former V. DISCUSSION The issue this court must cons......
  • Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, No. 24976.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 26, 1999
    ...employer, often described as a "faithless servant," forfeits the right to compensation. See Schuermann v. American KA-RO Corp., 295 S.C. 64, 367 S.E.2d 159 (1988) (employee who was fired for cause due to unspecified breach of duty of loyalty gives employer the right to abandon a n......
2 cases
  • Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, Inc., No. 2697
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 5, 1997
    ...benefits and certain types of compensation owed to him upon breach of the duty of loyalty. See, e.g., Schuermann v. American KA-RO Corp., 295 S.C. 64, 66, 367 S.E.2d 159, 160 (1988); Berry, 270 S.C. at 492, 242 S.E.2d at 553 (decided under former V. DISCUSSION The issue this court must cons......
  • Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, No. 24976.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 26, 1999
    ...employer, often described as a "faithless servant," forfeits the right to compensation. See Schuermann v. American KA-RO Corp., 295 S.C. 64, 367 S.E.2d 159 (1988) (employee who was fired for cause due to unspecified breach of duty of loyalty gives employer the right to abandon a n......

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