HENDERSON, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
This appeal is from a judgment on a jury's verdict for damages for breach of an alleged oral contract of life employment. The questions raised are as to the correctness of the rulings on demurrer and motion for judgment, the correctness of the rulings on the demurrer prayers and motion for judgment n.o.v., and the correctness of the court's charge to the jury.
The original declaration alleged that the plaintiff was employed as a Pullman porter on June 1, 1924, when he had an accident in the course of his employment and suffered serious injuries including the loss of a leg; that while convalescing the defendant offered "to employ him for the balance of his life", which offer he accepted, and "in consideration of said agreement the plaintiff surrendered his right to damages in an action at law against the defendant"; that in accordance with the agrement he was employed by the defendant until July 22, 1949, when he was discharged without just cause. The plaintiff claimed damages for breach of the agreement.
Before pleading the defendant took the plaintiff's deposition and the plaintiff testified under oath that the alleged oral contract was made on behalf of the defendant by Samuel McNabb, its District Superintendent at Baltimore; that nothing was said at that time about salary, or what his duties would be except that they would be light, and that no specific job was mentioned. Later in the examination the plaintiff testified, however, that McNabb said "he was going to give me a job at the Camden Station carrying diagrams".
Of course, the deposition formed no part of the plaintiff's pleading, and the scope of the demurrer could not be enlarged by the defendant's action in attaching the deposition to the first demurrer. We see no analogy to a bill of particulars. When filed pursuant to demand, a bill of particulars becomes a part of the declaration and hence may be reached by demurrer. Gaver v. Frederick, 175 Md. 639, 643, 3 A.2d 463. The motion for judgment was based on the theory that the court could not properly permit an amendment in contradiction of the deposition. But it is well established that the allowance of amendments is discretionary with the trial court and not subject to review. Poland v. Chessler, 145 Md. 66, 69, 125 A. 536.
The appellant contends that the motion was tantamount to a motion for summary judgment, under Summary Judgment Rule 1, of the General Rules of Practice
In regard to the contentions as to the legal insufficiency of the evidence, it is undisputed that the plaintiff was hired by District Superintendent McNabb as a sleeping car porter in 1923. On Sunday, June 1, 1924, while on duty and working as an employee on an all Pullman
Mr. McNabb died in 1936. The appellee produced two other witnesses, one of whom testified without objection that in November 1925 he was working for the appellant as a conductor. When he was in the office a wire came for Mr. McNabb advising him that an employee, Magers, had been killed in a wreck. Mr. McNabb said: "Well, it's too bad about Magers, but the damages in a case like this are not near as bad as if you injure a man permanently. He said, if we had not been able to give Willie Ray a lifetime job and take care of him, that could have been a very expensive proposition with [a man] as young as he was at the time." The other witness, also a conductor, testified that Mr. McNabb told him in 1929 that Ray had "a lifetime job with our company, and he was then working as diagram man at Camden Station."
The appellant produced testimony that there was no record of the Company to show any offer or agreement by McNabb as to lifetime employment of Ray, nor any letter or communication to the main office. There was nothing in the by-laws of the Company or minutes of the directors authorizing McNabb or any District Superintendent to make such an offer. It was also shown that the positions of diagram messenger and stockkeeper have both been abolished; Ray had not been discharged but was carried as a furloughed employee with top seniority on the clerical roster. There was no job available that he could fill without stenographic
The appellant's first contention on the demurrer prayers is that there is no evidence that Ray had a valid claim that he might have asserted against the Company in 1924 when the accident occurred, and hence the alleged agreement was without consideration. It appears to be conceded that there could have been no claim for workmen's compensation because the District of Columbia statute was not enacted until 1927, and neither the Federal Employer's Liability Act
The appellant contends, however, that there was no evidence of an agreement to forbear. It is true that in Heckler v. B. & O.R. Co., supra, there was an allegation of settlement and release. But recovery is not limited to cases where there is a bilateral contract; proof of a unilateral contract will suffice. In B. & O.R. Co. v. King, supra, there was evidence, not of a promise to forbear, but merely of a request to do so. See also Young v. Boyd, 107 Md. 449, 69 A. 33, and Devecmon v. Shaw, 69 Md. 199, 14 A. 464. In Snyder v. Cearfoss, 187 Md. 635, 641, 51 A.2d 264, 267, there was no evidence of a promise to forbear and no evidence of an express request. The promise to share the estate was simply conditional: "if you do not join with Jacob Snyder in any action he may take against me", followed by forbearance to join in his caveat proceeding. It was said (p. 644): "We hold that forbearance to exercise a legal right constitutes sufficient consideration for a contract, although there is no express promise to forbear, if such forbearance exists at the request of the party promising to compensate for the forbearance and in reliance upon such promise. In re All Star Feature Corporation, D.C., 232 F. 1004, 1009." In the case cited Judge Learned Hand said: "Forbearance, even without an agreement to forbear, will serve as a consideration, if it be completed."
In Williston, Contracts (Rev. ed.) Sec. 136, it is said that "forbearance for a reasonable time if requested is a sufficient consideration even though no promise of forbearance is made, a unilateral contract being as good as a bilateral", citing In re All Star Feature Corporation, supra, and other cases. The learned author then says: "Mere forbearance without request, however, is insufficient", but he continues: "If the offer contemplates a unilateral contract for which the consideration is forbearance,
Since we think a contractual undertaking can be implied from the circumstances, it is unnecessary to rest our decision upon the broader ground set out in Sec. 90 of the Restatement, Contracts, which provides: "A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise." This section was cited with approval in Anderson v. Truitt, 158 Md. 193, 199, 148 A. 223. Williston, Contracts (Rev. ed.) Sec. 139 is somewhat critical of the doctrine of "promissory estoppel" as a substitute for consideration, but in Sec. 140 approves the principle announced in Sec. 90 of the Restatement with the comment that it "does not assert a sweeping
The appellant contends, however, that the contract cannot be enforced against the Company in any event because McNabb was not authorized to make it and the Company did not ratify it. There is, of course, no evidence of prior authority or subsequent ratification; if authority is found it must therefore be implied. But it is well established that a corporate officer or agent has no implied authority to make an agreement for life-employment, even though he may be generally authorized to hire. C. & P. Tel. Co. v. Murray, 198 Md. 526, 84 A.2d 870. See also Williston, Contracts (Rev. ed.) Sec. 1652, citing Heaman v. E.N. Rowell Co., 261 N.Y. 229, 185 N.E. 93. However, it was noted in Heckler v. B. & O. Ry. Co., supra, that there may be an exception where the agreement for lifetime employment is in consideration of the release of a claim for damages, and the question was left open in that case. It has been held that proof of authority to settle claims is not enough. Cleveland Ry. Co. v. Green, 126 Ohio St. 512, 186 N.E. 365, 87 A.L.R. 1268, and cases cited. In Maxson v. Michigan Cent. R. Co., 117 Mich. 285, 75 N.W. 459, it was held that a division superintendent had no implied authority to bind the Company to life employment, in consideration of the settlement of a claim for damages on account of injuries.
The case principally relied upon by the appellee for the so-called exception is F.S. Royster Guano Co. v. Hall (4th Cir.) 68 F.2d 533, 537. While the court in that case discussed the apparent authority of the local superintendent, the point stressed was that there was a settlement reported to the Company officers and an executed release. Judge Parker, speaking for the court said: "The defendant cannot accept the fruits of a settlement and then assert that the agent who made it had
In the instant case, we think there are no facts to support a theory of estoppel. McNabb was not a corporate officer and there is no evidence that his offer to the appellee was ever made a matter of record or communicated to the higher officers of the Company. There was no release of the claim to charge the Company with notice. The mere fact that the bills for hospital expenses and artificial leg were paid by the Company and that Ray was re-employed would not imply that he had agreed to release his claim or that he had been offered lifetime employment in exchange for forbearance to sue. His employment in several different capacities which continued as long as there was work that he was capable of performing would not indicate that he stood in any better position than the ordinary employee. As we said in the Murray case, supra, (198 Md. 531): "If corporate officers could enter into contracts giving persons
Since we find no evidence legally sufficient to support a recovery against the Company upon McNabb's promise, it is unnecessary to discuss the other points argued, that in any event the promise of employment was always conditional upon there being work available which the appellee was competent to perform, or that the agreement was modified to that extent by the collective bargaining agreement to which appellee was necessarily a party.
Judgment reversed and entered for the defendant, with costs.
HAMMOND, J., filed the following dissenting opinion.
In Heckler v. Balto. & Ohio R. Co., 167 Md. 226, 173 A.2d 12, 14, this Court, in refusing effect to an alleged lifetime contract because its terms were not sufficiently definite, said this: "Holding as we do that the declaration alleges that the settlement was made by the corporation itself, we have not found it necessary to discuss the question whether a contract of employment made in settlement of a damage suit for personal injuries incurred in the service of a corporation, by an agent with apparent authority to settle the claim, is an exception to the general rule as to the necessity for express authority to make a contract for life employment. This question is ably discussed in F.S. Royster Guano Co. v. Hall (C.C.A. 4th) 68 F.2d 533. There a number of cases are cited which recognize such an exception."
Having clearly pointed out the road to be travelled by a legal vehicle factually equipped to use it, the Court, in the instant case, when confronted with such a vehicle, refuses it access to the road previously clearly marked and shunts it off onto, what seems to me, an archaic, unrealistic and illogical path, totally unsuited to it, and which unjustly penalizes the appellee in the prosecution of his bona fide claim.
A leading case which supports the appellee is F.S. Royster Guano Co. v. Hall, (C.C.A. 4th) 68 F.2d 533, 535 (referred to in the Heckler case). There the plaintiff lost his right arm, received in settlement $700.00 and was put back to work at the same rate of wages he had been receiving. The company official who dealt with him was one Baynard, the Superintendent of the Charlotte plant, and the contract, as found by the Court, was for the payment of the sum of $700.00 and a lifetime job for top wages for common labor. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, speaking through Judge Parker, pointed out that the plaintiff surrendered,
Judge Parker, for the Court, found that it would be hard to imagine anyone whose authority to make it would be "more readily assumed than a superintendent in general charge of the plant where the injury was sustained", and said again, "but there is more here showing the authority of the superintendent with respect to this settlement than merely the general authority which usually pertains to that position. Someone made a settlement with plaintiff for his injuries and obtained a release. Plaintiff testified that it was the superintendent who did this; and, as stated above, the verdict of the jury must be interpreted as a finding that this was the fact. The defendant cannot accept the fruits of a settlement and then assert that the agent who made it had no authority to settle. We do not mean to say that acceptance and reliance upon a release is, in the absence of knowledge, a ratification of the settlement as made; but it is a recognition of some authority to settle in the one who has obtained it, and the question which remains is as to the extent of that authority. The question here, then, is narrowed to this: Whether, under the circumstances disclosed, the superintendent in charge of the local business of the defendant, whose authority to settle a claim for personal injuries has been recognized, was clothed with apparent authority to bind the employer by a contract of permanent employment as one of the terms of the settlement. We think that this question must be answered in the affirmative. For cases in which a similar result has been reached see.... ...." (Citing cases).
As the Court found, to paraphrase Judge Parker, McNabb made a settlement with the plaintiff which included a job for life, in consideration of forbearance to sue, and the statute of limitations is now a complete protection to the company. I do not think that the appellant which has accepted the fruits of this settlement for twenty-five years can now assert that the agent
The case in some of these aspects may be said to be analogous to that of Fisher v. John L. Roper Lumber Co., 183 N.C. 485, 111 S.E. 857, 859, 35 A.L.R. 1417 (cited by Judge Delaplaine for the Court in the Murray case). There the Court determined that the jury could properly find that the contract "was by way of compromise and adjustment of a bona fide claim on the part of plaintiff against the company. Such an adjustment will afford sufficient consideration for the agreement, whether the claim was well grounded or not." The contract was made by the defendant's foreman in charge of the mill in which the employee was injured and was to the effect that the company would employ the worker in such work as he could do about the mill in his crippled condition at a living wage for the balance of his life sufficient for himself and the support of his family. The Court pointed out that there was evidence "tending to show that the company paid for the operation amputating plaintiff's arm, and that the owner of the plant and the general superintendent both personally knew of the injury and the amputation, and that plaintiff was taken back into their employment at the same wages, notwithstanding the loss of his arm, and they knew, or should have known, the condition of his return and the agreement concerning his employment, assuredly they had every opportunity to know, and there were facts sufficient to excite inquiry as to the terms of his further employment.... It appeared
This Court has made plain its views on the acceptance of the benefits of a contract made by one who ordinarily would not have authority to make it, where the corporation knew or is presumed to have known, of what occurred. In Edelhoff v. Horner-Miller Mfg. Co., 86 Md. 595, 39 A. 314, a chattel mortgage of corporate property was not shown to have been executed upon the express authority of the directors. The money obtained was used to pay the debts incurred by the corporation. The Court said: "Now while it may be true, as a general rule, that ministerial officers of a corporation without authority expressly conferred or to be implied from previous conduct, cannot pledge the property of the corporation, yet when a mortgage of its chattels has been made by such officers for the purpose of securing funds to pay its debts and continue its business, and it receives the full benefit of the transaction, without objection being made, it will be presumed to have authorized or ratified the acts of its officers." In Webb v. Duvall, 177 Md. 592, 11 A.2d 446, the chattel mortgage was executed in the name of the corporation by the purchasing agent. The chairman of a creditors committee, designated to manage and operate the company's plant, purchased a printing press to be used in the business and paid for it with his own money. To secure himself, he prepared a chattel mortgage and had it signed by the company's purchasing agent. There were subsequent meetings of the officers and directors but at none of them was the mortgage mentioned and there was no corporate action giving authority to the purchasing agent, or anyone else, to execute the mortgage. It was conceded that the printing presses were used in the plant until the receivers were appointed. The Court decided that the mortgage was binding on the corporation,
In Usher v. New York Cent. & H.R.R. Co., 76 App. Div. 422, 78 N.Y. Supp. 508, 509, affirmed, 179 N.Y. 544, 71 N.E. 1141, the contract was for the employment of the plaintiff at a monthly compensation of $35 per month for life. The contract was entered into between the plaintiff and the superintendent of the Hudson River Division. The plaintiff had been injured while in the defendant's employ and had lost his leg, and the life contract was in part settlement of his claim. The Court said: "The main contention on the part of the appellant is that the contract, if made, was not binding upon the company, for the reason that the division superintendent had no power to make it in the absence of expressed authority, and that the contract was in itself unreasonable.... The transaction between Watson and the plaintiff was in effect but a single agreement by which the latter released his claim, and the former agreed to hire him for life in consideration of such release. To permit the defense now under consideration would relieve the defendant from all liability on a contract which the plaintiff fully performed when he relinquished his claim. A corporation, when sued, cannot set up ultra vires as a defense to an action for breach of contract, or even for specific performance, when it has had the full benefit of the contract, and the other party has duly performed it; nor will such a plea avail, whether interposed for or against a corporation, when it will not advance justice, but will accomplish a legal wrong." See also The Pennsylvania Company v. Dolan, 6 Ind.App. 109, 32 N.E. 802; and Starr v. Superheater Co., (C.C.A. 7th) 102 F.2d 170-176, where the Court referred to the Usher
The Court, in the opinion in the present case, says that there are no facts to support a theory of estoppel. I feel that the facts which have been cited, as to the payment of Ray's hospital expenses and the cost of his artificial legs, his reemployment, and the running of the statute of limitations, the consequent bar to his claim, and the knowledge of the Company, actual or necessarily implied, are ample evidence of estoppel to bring the case within the rule of the cases cited. For cases where what I conceive to be the proper rule to be applied here, has either been applied or definitely recognized, see: Eggers v. Armour & Co. of Del., (C.C.A. 8th) 129 F.2d 729; Toni v. Kingan & Co., 214 Ind. 611, 15 N.E.2d 80; Cox v. The Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Co., 180 Ind. 495, 103 N.E. 337, 50 L.R.A., N.S., 453; Hobbs v. Electric Light Co., 75 Mich. 550, 42 N.W. 965; Stevens v. Southern Railway Company, 187 N.C. 528, 122 S.E. 295; Standard Oil Co. v. Nickerson, 103 Fla. 701, 138 S. 55; Okla. Portland Cement Co. v. Pollock, 181 Okla. 266, 73 Pac.2d 427; Louisville & N.R.R. Co. v. Cox, 145 Ky. 667, 141 S.W. 389; Jackson v. Ill. Cent. R. Co., 76 Miss. 607, 24 S. 874; Brighton v. Lake Shore & M.S. Ry. Co., 103 Mich. 420, 61 N.W. 550; American Car & Foundry Company v. Smock, 48 Ind.App. 359, 91 N.E. 749, 93 N.E. 78; Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Fairchild, 48 Ind.App. 300, 91 N.E. 836; Stanton v. Erie R. Co., 131 N.Y. App. Div. 879, 116 N.Y. Supp. 375; and Sax v. Detroit G.H. & M. Ry. Co., 125 Mich. 252, 84 N.W. 314.
I think that there is abundant evidence from which the jury could find that there was work which the company could give Ray and which he was qualified to perform, which in no way would have come in conflict with the conditions of the bargaining agreement. Ray had seniority in Baltimore, he had worked as a stock keeper for four years and there was available, or could have been made available, the job of assistant stock keeper. I have no doubt that if Ray was qualified to perform the work he did perform for twenty-five years, the last four as stock keeper, he was qualified to perform work the company had available, or could have made available, to him without infringing, in any way, on the obligations it assumed under the collective bargaining agreement. I think the Court's instructions on this point to the jury were sound, and evidently the jury, from its verdict, agreed with this point of view. I would affirm the judgment..