The Law School Authority

McIntosh v. Murphy Case Brief

Summary of McIntosh v. Murphy
S. Ct. HA [1970]

Statute of Frauds: Mitigating doctrines and Exceptions-Action in reliance on Oral K

Relevant Facts: Df Murphy was interviewing prospective management personnel in California for a position in HA.  He interviewed pl twice for sales manager.  Df called pl and informed him of a possible opening w/i 30 days and pl indicated he was interested and available.  Pl sent a telegram to df declaring he could be to work April 26.  Df telephoned pl and informed him that the job of asst sales manager was available that Monday the 27th. Pl arrived after selling some of his possessions, leasing an apartment in Honolulu, and forgoing other employment. Two months and one half months later he was dismissed.

Legal Issue(s): Whether an action can be maintained on an alleged oral agreement for employment when S/F determines that oral k are unenforceable if not performed w/i one year?

Court’s Holding:

Procedure: Df moved for direct verdict; trial ct ruled k not w/i S/F. Jury trial granted pl (12,103.40); df appeals; S. Ct. Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): any agreement that is not to be performed within one year from the making thereof shall be in writing in order to be enforceable.

Court Rationale: The computation of time excludes weekdays at the beginning and end of time periods.  Therefor acceptance did not begin until the Monday pl appeared in HA.  The action of pl in moving 2200 miles from LA to HA was not only foreseeable to the df but required. Injustice an only be avoided by awarding money damages, no other remedy is adequate. The pl was left to reside in HA without a job.  A contract of some kind did exist. The exact length was up to the jury to decide.  The trial ct might have found that enforcement of the contract was warranted by virtue of the pl’s reliance on the df’s promise. Each case turns on its own facts. The true policy behind the Statute of Frauds, historically, was to prevent fraud or any other type of unconscionable injury.  The pl’s reliance was such that injustice could only be avoided by enforcement of the contract.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The df and pl had a oral contract for employment for one year, where the pl relied upon the df’s promise to his detriment which was forseeable to the df.

Defendant’s Argument: The pl cannot maintain an action based on an alleged oral agreement that cannot be performed within one year w/o being reduced in writing. The pl’s acceptance came one day before he reported for work and therefor subject to the statute of frauds.

Minority View: The Statute of Frauds was duly enacted by the legislature, it is not the job of the courts to usurp legislative power and enter into the legislative field.If the Statute of Frauds is too harsh it is up to the legislature not the courts to amend or repeal.

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