No. 3010 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Order Entered October 21, 1981 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division No. 3520 March Term, 1977
James D. Crawford, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Edwin P. Smith, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Rowley and Cirillo, JJ. Rowley, J. concurred in the result.
[ 325 Pa. Super. Page 427]
This is an appeal from an order entering judgment in favor of appellee in an action in assumpsit alleging a breach of a contract for employment.
The parties became acquainted during the summer of 1976 when appellee-Bruce Stern (Stern) worked for Vic Snyder, Inc. (Corporation) as a plumber's helper. Vic Snyder (Snyder) and Salvatore Contino (Contino), as principals of the Corporation, discussed with Stern the possibility of Stern becoming the Corporation's general office manager. It was understood that Stern had no prior experience in such a position. Stern tried a two week trial period in the position and then agreed to accept a permanent position. Stern insisted on a written agreement.
A written agreement was executed on August 31, 1976, it provided for a term of employment of two years, with an option, exercisable by Stern, for a third year. The agreement provided for termination of Stern's employment should the Corporation, through Contino, become dissatisfied with Stern's performance. Sixty (60) days written notice was to be given in case of a breach by either party. On February 22, 1977, the Corporation discharged Stern. The Corporation claimed the discharge was because of dissatisfaction with Stern, to whom it attributed its decreased profit margin. Such was claimed to be attributable to Stern's approval of contracts that did not accurately reflect the increase in labor and material costs and his improper assignment of mechanics.
Stern claims that Snyder and Contino never expressed any dissatisfaction with his work. Instead, he claimed the reason he was given for his firing was that Snyder had
[ 325 Pa. Super. Page 428]
decided to resume active participation in the running of the business. Stern brought suit, on the contract, for the alleged improper termination. The jury's verdict in favor of Stern awarded him $65,000.00, plus six percent interest and twenty-five percent attorney's fees. The Corporation's post-verdict motions were denied and judgment was entered. Hence this appeal.
The Corporation raises seven assignments of error. We will address the issues seriatim.
I. Did the trial court err in instructing the jury regarding the "satisfaction" clause contained in the contract?
Paragraph four of the contract read:
4. Stern shall at all times discharge his duties in consultation with and under the supervision of the Board of Directors of the CORPORATION through Salvatore Contino and Stern shall be solely responsible for the quality of his services to the said Board of Directors and the said Salvatore Contino. The employment of STERN shall continue only so long as the services rendered by him are satisfactory to the Board of Directors and Salvatore Contino, regardless of any other provisions contained, in this Agreement. The Board of Directors and Salvatore Contino shall be the sole judges as to whether the services of STERN are satisfactory.
(Emphasis supplied.) In its charge to the jury the court stated:
Now, you determine from the evidence whether in fact they were dissatisfied. You've heard the testimony of the parties, you've heard the depositions read, you've listened very carefully. You determine from the evidence whether in fact they were dissatisfied.
And if you find that they were dissatisfied, consider under the terms of this contract whether their dissatisfaction gave them the right to terminate him, because in considering the evidence, as well as the plaintiff's ...