Willis v. Wyllys Corp.

Decision Date20 November 1922
Docket NumberNo. 8.,8.
Citation119 A. 24
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Appeal from Supreme Court.

Action by William H. Willis against the Wyllys Corporation. From a judgment for plaintiff, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

McDermott, Enright & Carpenter, of Jersey City, for appellant.

William D. Wolf skeil and Stamler & Stamler, all of Elizabeth, for respondent.

PARKER, J. Respondent was an employe of the appellant corporation, and was discharged from his employment for no fault, and, claiming that his term of employment was for the year, brought this action for damages. The defendant claimed that his employment was at will, and that he could therefore be discharged at any time. This was the controlling issue at the trial. Plaintiff produced and put in evidence a letter from the comptroller of defendant, whose authority was not questioned, and relied on that letter and certain parol testimony in support of it. The letter is as follows:

"July 9, 1920. "Mr. Wm. H. Willis, Room 210, Dominion Savings Building, London, Ontario, Canada— Dear Mr. Willis: Confirming the arrangements made with you at our conference last Tuesday, we engage your services as assistant comptroller in charge of factory accounting, with a salary at the rate of $7,500 per year, with the understanding that, if the connection proves satisfactory, the salary, beginning with January 1, 1921, will be at the rate of $9,000 per year. In further confirmation of our arrangements, it is understood that the company will pay the expenses of moving your household effects from Cleveland. I hope that you managed to make your train and arrived home safely, and I am looking forward to seeing you next Monday, the 12th inst.

"Very truly yours,

"[Signed] A. Luery, Comptroller."

It appeared in the evidence that plaintiff had been paid semimonthly at the rate of $7,500 per year until December 31, 1920, and thereafter at the rate $9,000 per year semimonthly until the end of February, 1921, when he was discharged. Plaintiff was also allowed to show by parol that the letter was in pursuance of an oral conversation in which, as he claimed, there was a definite proposition and agreement of hiring by the year. The trial court left it to the jury to say whether there was a yearly hiring, or an indefinite hiring—i. e., at will—and they found for the plaintiff. The alleged errors are the admission of parol evidence as to the terms of the contract, the court's later refusal to strike it out, and refusal to nonsuit and to direct a verdict for defendant.

Our consideration of the case leads us to the conclusion that the letter alone, viewed as the entire contract, is properly to be construed as a hiring by the year. There is great diversity of view in the different jurisdictions respecting this class of cases. The "English view," so called, tends to a construction establishing a contract for a definite term, if this can be...

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13 cases
  • Woolley v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc.
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • May 9, 1985
    ...clause where the employment is alleged to be for a fixed term, e.g., because of the stated salary period. See Willis v. Wyllys Corp., 98 N.J.L. 180, 119 A. 24 (E. & A. 1922) (when employment contract states annual salary, the term of employment is not indefinite, but by the year).12 We do n......
  • Bernard v. IMI Systems, Inc.
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • January 25, 1993
    ...during their terms of employment. In an unreported opinion, the Appellate Division reversed, finding that under Willis v. Wyllys Corp., 98 N.J.L. 180, 119 A. 24 (E. & A. 1922), a salary quoted in annual terms establishes a year-to-year contract. The court also ruled that genuine issues of f......
  • Putnam v. Producers' Live Stock Marketing Ass'n
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Kentucky
    • November 9, 1934
    ...sum per year for an accounting officer was regarded as a circumstance looking toward some degree of permanency in Willis v. Wyllys Corporation, 98 N.J. Law, 180, 119 A. 24. The letter to Putnam confirmed some oral understanding, and is on its face an unconditional contract to pay him $3,300......
  • Putnam v. Producers' Live Stock Marketing Ass'n
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals
    • November 9, 1934
    ... ... regarded as a circumstance looking toward some degree of ... permanency in Willis v. Wyllys Corporation, 98 N. J ... Law, 180, 119 A. 24 ...          The ... letter to ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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