Willamette Law Online

Oregon Supreme Court


Cocchiara v. Lithia Motors, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 03-07-2013
Case #: S060100
Balmer, C.J. for the Court; En Banc
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S060100.pdf

Contract Law: An employee may be able to prove that he reasonably relied on an offer of employment for a job that is terminable at-will under the theories of promissory estopple and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Cocchiara appealed The Court of Appeals decision to grant summary judgment to his former employer. Cocchiara relied on the representation that Lithia Motors' general sales manager promised him a job which he eventually was not officially offered. He then brought an action against Lithia for unlawful employment practices and promissory estoppel. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and held that a person could not reasonably rely on an offer for a job that could be terminated at-will. On review, the Supreme Court held that an employee could reasonably rely on a promise of employment, despite it being terminable "at-will", especially if the employee has a history with the employer. Because there may be reasonable reliance, Cocchiara should have been able to present evidence on his reliance and damages. Therefore, Lithia was not entitled to partial summary judgment. Reversed and remanded to the circuit court.