Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. GD81-22542.
Samuel Y. Stroh, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Geoffrey P. Wozman, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Rowley, Johnson and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 368 Pa. Super. Page 347]
Appellant corporation, appellee's former employer, appeals from the trial court's order denying appellant's motion for post-trial relief. A judgment in the sum of $338,112.00 was entered in favor of appellee after a jury found appellant liable for breach of its employment contract with appellee. The parties' dispute centers on which of two documents should be held to have governed the employment relationship: a letter of June 20, 1979, written to appellee by Frank Schneider, appellant's chairman of the board, specifying appellee's compensation and term of employment and stating that "an employment agreement will be developed"; or a document signed by appellee on December 19, 1979, labeled "employment agreement" and containing an integration clause as well as provisions less favorable to appellee than those of the June letter.
On appeal appellant raises the following issues: 1) whether the trial court erred in denying appellant's motion in limine and objection to appellee's offer of proof, the effect of that denial being to allow the introduction of evidence concerning the June 20, 1979 letter and of appellee's job performance; 2) whether a directed verdict should have been granted in favor of appellant; 3) whether the trial court erred in allowing portions of the deposition of Peter Hannaway, president of Schneider Power Corporation, a subsidiary of appellant, to be read into evidence; 4) whether the trial court erred in refusing to submit to the jury
[ 368 Pa. Super. Page 348]
fourteen points for charge requested by appellant; 5) whether the trial court erred in its charge to the jury; and 6) whether the trial court erred in refusing to grant the remittitur requested by appellant. Because the trial court's instructions to the jury were based upon a fundamental error of law, we reverse and remand for a new trial.
The trial court gave the jury the following instructions regarding the two documents:
Now, I have ruled and instruct you as a matter of law that this second writing of December 19, 1979 is of no effect, no legal effect, in this case because it is without consideration. The letter of June 20, 1979 contained all the essential elements for a binding contract of employment when Mr. McGuire reported for work. The employment agreement which was signed by him quite a few months later does nothing but detract from rights which he already had, and under which he was working. So, therefore, no consideration flowed to him from the second document. He had all of that and more, it merely lessened his rights. Consequently, there is a failure of consideration and you're not to consider the second document. The case gravitates and revolves around the contract which is described in the letter of June 20, 1979, as having been entered into orally between Mr. Schneider and the plaintiff, and details their agreement. It reaffirms it, and it, of course, became binding when the plaintiff reported for work.
The December contract, which the trial court held to be without legal effect, expresses the parties' agreement that that contract "supersedes any existing employment agreement . . . and contains the entire understanding and agreement between the parties and may not be modified, supplemented or amended . . . except by a subsequent written agreement . . . ." Where the parties to an agreement adopt a writing as the final and complete expression of their agreement, as here, evidence of negotiations ...