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BACHMANN v. BLAW-KNOX CO.

October 5, 1961

Charles A. BACHMANN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BLAW-KNOX COMPANY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLSON

In the complaint filed in this civil action, 25 plaintiffs being citizens of states other than Pennsylvania, sued Blaw-Knox Company, defendant, a Delaware Corporation, with its principal place of business in Pittsburgh, Pa., invoking the diversity jurisdiction of the court. No jurisdictional issue is raised. Each of the plaintiffs' individual state citizenship will be hereafter mentioned. Six plaintiffs have had their complaints dismissed for reasons not here pertinent, leaving 19 individuals as parties plaintiff.

 Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact which bars summary judgment and therefore, for several reasons, says defendant, plaintiffs do not state in their complaint any cause upon which relief can be granted by this court.

 Each plaintiff contends that he was hired by defendant, Blaw-Knox Company, to work in Venezuela for a period of not less than two years, and that prior to the expiration of the two year period defendant wrongfully terminated his employment in breach of the argeement. It is conceded that there were no written contracts of employment between plaintiffs and defendant as that term is generally understood. Plaintiffs, in fact, in their complaint did not make any allegation tending to show that they were hired under any written memorandum. However, when confronted with defendant's defense in this motion that the employment contracts were oral and therefore contrary to the statute of frauds of each of the respective states where plaintiffs were hired, then plaintiffs sought to show that an advertisement appearing in the New York Times of October 30, 1955, was such a memorandum as would take the employment out of the statute of frauds principle.

 1. It asserts that the statute of frauds is a defense which bars each of 17 plaintiffs.

 2. It says that each of the plaintiffs' claims are governed by the law of Venezuela because each cause of action arose in Venezuela and that each cause of action is fully barred by the Venezuelan statute of limitations, and

 3. Defendant asserts that it has a good and valid release executed by each one of the plaintiffs while still in Venezuela.

 Without deciding the last defense raised, this court is of the opinion that the defense of the statute of frauds is applicable to each of 17 plaintiffs, that is, Charles A. Bachmann, William A. Clark, Wade P. Crawford, Owen F. Darcy, Arthur Faltz, Joseph J. Gallagher, Walter D. Gross, Bernard Kaplan, William G. Knight, a/k/a William Kowalczyk, Earl E. Mason, James Edwin Mathews, James P. Mikedes, Glenn E. Owens, Jr., Richard John Preston, John F. Schnacky, Eli L. Schwartz and Julian S. Webb; and the motion for summary judgment will be granted as to them.

 This court is likewise of the opinion that the Venezuelan statute of limitations is a defense applicable to all the remaining 19 plaintiffs, that is the 17 heretofore named and John W. Erickson and John K. Prout; and the motion for summary judgment will be granted also on this basis.

 I -- Defense of Statute of Frauds

 At the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, the following colloquy took place between the court and plaintiffs' counsel, Mr. Schwartz, as shown on pages 46 and 47 of the transcript:

 '* * * The Court: What is your contract; what do you say your contract was, where it was executed?

 'Mr. Schwartz: We never claimed there was a written contract, but we don't say, we don't admit that there must be a written contract to take this case out of the statute of frauds. Defendant's Exhibit 2 cites the law of the eight states, the other states in addition to Pennsylvania in which these contracts were entered into. California, which is the first one in its exhibit --

 'The Court: You agree that one of them was entered into in California?

 'Mr. Schwartz: Oh, sure.

 'The Court: You agree to that?

 'Mr. Schwartz: We admitted that in our answer, and amended answers to interrogatories ...


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