Crabtree v. Elizabeth Arden Case Brief

Summary of Crabtree v. Elizabeth Arden
N. Y. Ct. App [1953]

Statute of Frauds: Satisfaction of the Statute

Relevant Facts: Pl, Crabtree entered into negotiation w/ df company Arden seeking employment. The df manufactures and sells cosmetics. The pl requested a 3 yr $25000/yr K. The president Arden agreed to a two year K, $20000 for the first 6 mos. then $25000 2nd 6 mos. then $30000 for the 2nd year with $5000 per year expense money. She had her secretary write the terms down on a blank telephone order slip. Pl accepted, and df “welcome," and a second writing to reflect the first was issued as a payroll change. Pl was paid the first six mos as agreed but after the 2nd 6 mos he was not given the agreed increase. The comptroller attempted to seek authorization but Mrs. Arden refused, pl quit and filed an action.

Legal Issue(s): Whether there was a memorandum of the terms of the contract evidenced by several writing, sufficient to satisfy the S/F?

Court’s Holding: yes

Procedure: Pl filed action for breach, trial ct found for pl and against df ($14000); App Ct affirmed. Affirmed with costs.

Law or Rule(s): Signed and unsigned writings may be read together provided that they clearly refer to the same subject matter to constitute a sufficient connection piecing together to satisfy a sufficient writing.

Court Rationale: Every agreement is void, unless some note or memorandum be in writing, and subscribed by the party to be charged, does not impose the requirement that the signed acknowledgment of the K must appear from the writings alone, unaided by oral testimony. At least one writing must bear the signature of the party to be charged. Parol evidence serves only to connect the separate documents to show assent. The unsigned office memo, the payroll change form initialed by the general manager, and the paper signed by the comptroller all refer on their face to the same transaction. The parties, the position to be filled by the pl, the salary to be paid, are all identically set forth within each. The three documents constituted a “memorandum," of their agreement within the meaning of the S/F. The memorandum contains all the essential terms of the contract and only one term, the length of employment is in dispute. The indication “2 years to make good," is supported by the other documents as meaning employment for a specific period under the contract.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The three documents together satisfy the writing requirement under the S/F and thus a K for employment with specific terms under which is discerned.

Defendant’s Argument: The documents are unsigned by the president, vague as to the length, and oral agreements are unenforceable under the statute.

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