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Drennan v. Star Paving Co. - 323 P.2d 477 (Cal. Dist. Ct. App. 1958)


He who, by his language or conduct, leads another to do what he would not otherwise have done, shall not subject such person to loss or injury by disappointing the expectations upon which he acted. Such change of position is sternly forbidden.


Plaintiff William A. Drennan was a licensed general contractor engaged in bidding for a public works construction job known as the "Monte Vista School Job" in the Lancaster school district. Defendant Star Paving Company, through its agent Kenneth Hoon, made the lowest bid for the asphaltic paving portion of the job, and on the basis of which Drennan made his final bid as a general contractor. Drennan’s bid for the school job was accepted. However, the defendant refused to perform the asphaltic paving work according to the bid it submitted to Drennan. Consequently, Drennan filed an action for damages, which the trial court granted. Defendant appealed from the judgment, claiming that the evidence against it was insufficient to sustain the judgment.


Under the circumstances, was plaintiff general contractor Drennan entitled to damages for defendant paving company's refusal to perform the work according to the bid it submitted?




The Court held that the doctrine of primary estoppel applied. The doctrine of primary estoppel was defined as a "promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promise and which did induce such action or forbearance was binding if injustice can be avoided only by the enforcement of the promise.” The Court held that by the language or conduct of the defendant, plaintiff general contractor Brennan was led to do a thing which he would not have otherwise done; therefore, Brennan suffered injury, and defendant paving company was liable for damages.

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