Crabtree v. Elizabeth Arden Sales Corp., 110 N.E.2d 551 (1953)

Case Name: Crabtree v. Elizabeth Arden Sales Corp.
Plaintiff: Crabtree
Defendant:
Elizabeth Arden Sales Corp.
Citation:
305 N.Y. 48, 110 N.E.2d 551 (1953)

Key Facts: The plaintiff was seeking employment with defendant. He asked for a three-year contract at $25,000. He wanted a contract because he was entering a new field and wanted job security while he mastered the field. The defendant’s president offered him $20,000/year for the first 6 months, $25,000 for the next 6 months, and $30,000 for the second year.  The president had her secretary create a memorandum that stated some of the terms (which was not signed) the executive VP created a “pay-roll change” card which also stated some of the terms (which was initialed). After the first year, the plaintiff was not given his payroll increase so he quit and filed this action. The president denied that there was a two year contract agreement and even if one was made, the statute of frauds barred it enforcement.

Issue: Whether the length of the employment contract can be inferred by multiple writings and oral testimony.

Procedural Posture: The trial court found for the plaintiff $14,000 and the appellate court affirmed.

Judgment: Affirmed

Reasoning: If the court finds a sufficient connection between the documents, through a reference in them to the same subject matter or transaction, and oral testimony is admitted to show the connection, the signed and unsigned writings can be read together.

 

Notes: Under the Statute of Frauds, courts require some writing but there does not need to be a formal or written contract. There should at least be a document(s) that lists the essential terms, particularly the terms that are in dispute.

Depending on the jurisdiction, courts will read the two documents together if either

  1. If the signed writings explicitly mentions the unsigned document(s), or
  2. The documents appear to relate to each other (more liberal approach which the court in this case used)

 

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