Crabtree v. Elizabeth Arden Sales Corp. Plaintiff - Crabtree (former employee of defendant) Defendant - Elizabeth Arden (employer)


Procedural History: Trial court found against defendant, appellant court affirmed, and defendant appeals. Facts: Crabtree was seeking employment with defendant and specified that he would only accept a position for $25k/year with a 3 year employment contract, due to the risks he was taking accepting that position. Defendant offered him (written as a memo, but unsigned) $20k first 6 mos., $25k 2nd 6 mos., and $30k after 1 year, with a 2 year employment contract. Crabtree accepted. He rec'd the payroll increase from $20k to $25k, but did not receive the $30k increase at the end of the 1st year. The payroll cards for Crabtree were signed and stamped by (1) general manager, and (2) comptroller, and they noted the previously mentioned salary increases. Crabtree informed the comptroller that he had a contract with Miss Arden, and when it was attempted to be straightened out, Miss Arden refused to approve the additional pay increase. Crabtree then left his employment and commenced this action for breach of contract. Issue: As the contract relied upon was not performed within a year, was there a memorandum of its terms, subscribed by defendant, to satisfy the statute of frauds? Holding: The court affirmed a judgment in favor of plaintiff in a breach of contract action related to an employment contract. Rule: The Statute of Frauds (Personal Property Law, 31) which states that an agreement not to be performed within one year is void unless "some note or memorandum thereof be in writing, and subscribed by the party to be charged." Reasoning: The court held that an unsigned office memorandum, together with two signed payroll cards, were sufficient under the statute of frauds, N.Y. Pers. Prop. Law 31, to establish an employment contract with a tenure of two years. All three documents referred on their face to the same transaction and the terms under which plaintiff would be employed by defendant, and contained all of the essential terms of the contract between the parties. The court therefore held that the length of the contract could be established through reference to the unsigned office memorandum without violating the statute of frauds. Notes Statute of frauds argues (defense) - theres no writing (memo wasn't signed) Court adopts a subject matter test/transaction test - memo that states the 2 year contract wasn't signed. But they have the payroll cards that refer to same thing. Court says there is a sufficient connection between papers - b/c all papers refer to same transaction Parole evidence rule: don't go outside of the contract. Determinations based on what is contained in the document. Rather not rely on oral testimony if they don’t have to, but will if there is an ambiguity or disconnect. Court talks about allowing the defendant to make oral testimony in this particular case? b/c they are not concerned about fraud in this context, so they would

allow it Purpose is to make a connection between the writings Not worried about fraud, b/c Arden's secretary created the document, it seemed doubtful that the document was fraudly manufactured. Also, payroll cards doubtful that it was fraud. Writings generated on company forms (unlikely Crabtree can create these himself) Focusing on connection btwn docs, allowing testimony in making the connections. Can't use memo because it wasn't signed Payroll cards don’t specify time But by piecing it together, you have a contract, a writing.