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GRIFFITH v. KEYSTONE DRILLER COMPANY (04/22/53)

April 22, 1953

GRIFFITH
v.
KEYSTONE DRILLER COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 65, March T., 1953, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, March T., 1952, No. 12, in case of Edwrd M. Griffith v. Keystone Driller Company. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Charles M. Barrickman, with him Buchnanan, Wallover & Barrickman, for appellant.

Harold F. Reed, Jr., with him Reed, Ewing & Ray, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Stearne

[ 373 Pa. Page 448]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

Defendant, Keystone Driller Company, appeals from judgment entered on a jury's verdict for plaintiff in an assumpsit action. The claim was for personal services rendered as an industrial consultant. Defendant contended that plaintiff was not an independent contractor hired on a fee basis but rather an employe entitled to no more than the amounts permitted by the General Salary Stabilization Regulation. Such amount was tendered by defendant and refused by plaintiff.

These opposing contentions raise an issue of fact for a jury. Testimony was introduced by each side to support its theory of the character of plaintiff's relationship with defendant. In support of the allegations of the complaint, plaintiff testified that he had been an industrial consultant for about twenty years; that he did one job for defendant in May, 1951, for which he was paid a fee of $900.00 in accordance with a bill submitted; that he contracted verbally to render services to defendant in connection with two other jobs; and that he had no definite arrangement respecting compensation other than that he was to submit a bill similar to that rendered at the conclusion of the first job. The answer filed by defendant, and the testimony given by its president, indicated that the plaintiff had been paid a weekly wage, rather than a fee, for the first job; that he was hired as a checking clerk or supervisor for the two jobs in controversy; and that he was promised only the fair and reasonable value of the services rendered. The president testified to the salaries of other employes rendering similar services in an effort to show that the reasonable value of

[ 373 Pa. Page 449]

    plaintiff's services was $1,425.00, which amount (less withholding tax and social security) was tendered to plaintiff. Plaintiff refused to accept this sum and submitted his bill for $2,950.00.

At the instance of the defendant, the trial judge asked the jury this special question: "Was Edward M. Griffith, the plaintiff, an employee of the Keystone Driller Company, defendant?" This was the question of fact upon which the entire controversy depended. It was submitted to the jury in a fair, impartial charge, in which the trial court directed them to decide which of the conflicting versions of the oral contract they believed. Their verdict reads in part as follows: "... Edward M. Griffith, plaintiff, was employed by the Keystone Driller Co., defendant, on a fee basis as an industrial consultant on the Ideco job and the Government job, and is entitled to compensation of $2950.00." This was a clear and direct answer to the factual question presented.

Defendant's principal contention is that, despite the jury's verdict, plaintiff is estopped to deny that he is an employe of defendant because he filed with the Social Security Board a statement in which he designated himself an employe. Controlling authority for this position is said to be found in Bidwell v. Pittsburgh, 85 Pa. 412, wherein Justice MERCUR said for the Court (p. 417): "It is not necessary that the party against whom an estoppel is alleged, should have intended to deceive: it is sufficient if he intended that his conduct should induce another to act upon it, and the other, relying on it, did so act: Bisp. Eq., ยง 290." But the quotation relied upon reveals the essential element which is missing from ...


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