Alaska Democratic Party v. Rice – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Alaska Democratic Party v. Rice, 934 P.2d 1313 (Alaska 1997).
Kathleen Rice (P) worked for the Alaska Democratic Party (D) from 1987 until she was fired from her position as executive director in 1991. Rice alleged that after Greg Wakefield was elected chair of the Party he made an offer for her to return to her position as executive director for two years. Rice accepted the offer, resigned her position with the Gore vice-presidential campaign, and moved to Alaska. Rice filed suit when she was later informed that she would not get the job. The trial court awarded Rice $28,864 in damages under promissory estoppel and $1,558 for misrepresentation and the Alaska Democratic Party appealed, arguing that the alleged contract was barred by the statute of frauds.
- Can an oral employment contract be removed from the statute of frauds via promissory estoppel?
Holding and Rule
- Yes. An oral contract can be removed from the statute of frauds via promissory estoppel under a heightened burden of proof by showing existence of the promise of employment by clear and convincing evidence (Restatement (Second) of Contracts section 139).
A promise is enforceable via promissory estoppel only if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. The relevant factors are: the availability and adequacy of other remedies, the definite and substantial character of the action or forbearances in relation to the remedy sought, the extent to which the terms were established by clear and convincing evidence, the reasonableness of action or forbearance, and the extent the action was foreseeable.
Rice’s recovery was limited to reliance damages. The damages for misrepresentation were not awarded even though given to the plaintiff by the jury because such damages would have put her in a better position than she would have been in if the promise had never been made.