Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Montgomery County, No. 82-5105.
Stephen Bosch, Philadelphia, for appellants (at 2000) and for appellees (at 2172).
David H. Moskowitz, Langhorne, for appellant (at 2172) and for appellee (at 2000).
Wickersham, Wieand and Popovich, JJ.
[ 357 Pa. Super. Page 354]
Where there is neither agreement nor promise by an employer to approve an employee's application for early retirement, may the employer nevertheless be estopped to deny such approval? Our review of the record discloses in this case no basis for an estoppel; and, therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court which awarded damages to the employee whose application for voluntary early retirement was disapproved by his employer.
[ 357 Pa. Super. Page 355]
Dr. Peter Havas, a tenured professor of physics at Temple University, had notified his employer that he intended to retire, pursuant to an existing early retirement plan (ERP), on July 1, 1981. On April 3, 1980, the University announced that the trustees and administrators of the University and the American Association of University Professors, a collective bargaining agent for the faculty, had reached agreement on a new voluntary early retirement plan (VERP). When Havas learned of this new plan, he submitted an application for retirement pursuant thereto, effective January 1, 1981. In reliance upon anticipated approval, Dr. Havas made several commitments for research and professional appearances during the six month period following his contemplated retirement. In November of 1980, his application for voluntary early retirement on January 1, 1981 was disapproved. As a result, Dr. Havas' retirement could not become effective until July 1, 1981. In order to keep his professional commitments, he took a leave of absence, without pay, from January 1, 1981 to June 30, 1981.
On April 6, 1982, Havas commenced an action against Temple University for damages. On November 3, 1982, the trial court sustained preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the complaint but granted leave to Dr. Havas to file an amended complaint. An amended complaint was filed on December 6, 1982, and again the University filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer. These preliminary objections were sustained, and judgment was entered in favor of the University on July 22, 1983. On appeal to the Superior Court, a panel of this Court entered a per curiam order reversing and remanding, 339 Pa. Super. 624, 488 A.2d 1169. In a memorandum opinion, the panel recorded its agreement with the trial court that Havas had failed to state a cause of action for breach of contract. Havas knew, the Court observed, that approval by the University was necessary before he could be accepted into VERP. Because such approval was a condition precedent and because approval had not been obtained, the panel said,
[ 357 Pa. Super. Page 356]
there was no agreement that Havas would be permitted to retire on January 1, 1981. The panel reversed and remanded, however, because the trial court had failed to address a separate count in the complaint alleging a cause of action based upon estoppel. Although reversing and remanding for further proceedings on this count of the complaint, the Court cautioned:
Whether appellant can provide proof of the facts of his cause and of his damages remains for the scrutiny of the court when it considers a motion for summary judgment and/or at the conclusion of the trial of the case.
Upon remand, the action was tried non-jury and resulted in a "Decree Nisi" awarding damages to Dr. Havas in the amount of $53,100.61. The trial court expressly found that "there was no promise and no contract" but allowed recovery on the "ethical principle" of estoppel. (Trial Court Opinion at p. 7). Post-trial motions filed by both ...