Feinberg v. Pfeiffer Co. Plaintiff - Feinberg (former employee of defendant) Defendant - Pfeiffer Co.


Procedural History: Trial Court (no jury) issued judgment for plaintiff for $5,100 (amount due as of the date of the trial, with interest). Defendant appealed. Facts: Plaintiff had worked at defendant corporation for 39 years (since 1910, she was 17). In 1937, due to plaintiff's loyalty, ability and skill in her years working there, the defendant decided to not only increase her current salary, but to pay upon retirement $200 for life. They wanted her to work as long as she could, but she could leave at any time and receive this pension. She continued to work until 6/30/1949, when she retired. Defendant then began paying her the promised $200 per month. Shortly after Mr. Lippman died (who was the President of the company that had promised the plaintiff her pension), it was decided that since there was no contract to obligate them to pay this pension, and that it was merely a gratuity because there was no consideration, so they did not need to pay her this sum. At the time the payments were discontinued, the plaintiff was 63 years old, and also ill. Pension is not protected by law at this point in time. Arg 1: Plaintiff argues that the required consideration was established in that she worked from 1947 to 1949. However, this argument is not supported because she did not need to continue working to enable her to receive the pension, per the agreement. There was not mutuality of obligation here, so no consideration (she could leave at any time and the pension would still be paid). Arg 2: Plaintiff argues that her change of position (her retirement), and that she did not seek other gainful employment , was made in reliance of the defendant's promise to pay $200 per month for life. Issue: Did the plaintiff act in reliance to them defendant's promise, that would estop the defendant, and therefore create an enforceable contract under the doctrine of promissory estoppel? Holding/Judgment: Judgment affirmed for plaintiff. There was sufficient consideration (based on promissory estoppel) in that plaintiff relied on the payments and so retired, and did not seek other gainful employment. Reasoning: The plaintiff was 57 years old when she retired. It would have been difficult for her to obtain comparable employment elsewhere, so she would probably have stayed at her employment if she did not rely on a pension. Furthermore, she was 63 years old when the payments stopped. She was ill as well, and it is common knowledge that a woman of that age is very unlikely to find satisfactory employment. Her decision to retire and subsequently not seek other employment was in reliance with the promise made. Court sympathetic to plaintiff. Court will do what they want to do as justice requires.