Inman v. Clyde Hall Drilling Case Brief

Summary of Inman v. Clyde Hall Drilling
S. Ct. Alaska [1962]

Relevant Facts: Pl, Inman worked for Df Clyde as a derrickman under a written contract of employment, signed by both parties in late 1959. Early 1960 Inman was fired by Clyde. A portion of the contract stated notice of any claim against Clyde was required w/i 30 days and no longer than 1 yr. Pl’s only notice was the complaint under this action for wrongful termination.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the notice provision in the contract, as a condition precedent to recovery, is contrary to public policy?

Court’s Holding: NO

Procedure: Df filed for summary; granted. Pl appealed; Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): The ct must look at the relative bargaining positions of the parties in the framework of contemporary business practices and commercial life. If one party has taken advantage of the economic necessities of the other, as a matter of public policy, the ct should refuse to enforce the transaction.

Court Rationale: There is nothing in the notice provision to suggest it was designed from an unfair motive to bilk employees out of wages or other compensation. There is nothing to suggest that Inman did not have knowledge, capacity, or opportunity to read the agreement and understand it; that the terms were imposed w/o any real freedom of choice; that there was any substantial inequality in bargaining positions. Inman attached a copy of the K to his complaint, and he admitted that at the time he signed it, he read it, and had discussed it w/ a Co rep. If the danger is increased whereby workmen are disadvantaged by employers the Leg will act. Commencement of an action and service of the complaint was not an effective substitute for the kind of notice called for by the agreement. Normally, failure to give advance notice of a claim where notice is required would be a defense set forth in the answer, but here the parties agreed that the notice was a condition precedent to any recovery. The Df cannot be charged w/ waiving a defense which it was not obliged to present in its answer. Pl’s failure to provide notice was not the fault of the Co, there is no evidence that the Co induced Pl not to give notice.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Since the complaint set forth the basis of the claim which was served w/i 30 days Pl substantially complied w/ the notice requirement. Non-compliance w/ the notice requirement is an affirmative defense that must be raised in the answer. The Co breached the contract by terminating employment which canceled all obligation under the contract.

Defendant’s Argument: The provision required Pl provide notice of any claim prior to the commencement of an action in order to recover. Pl did not provide notice prior to commencement of this action.

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