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The Illinois statute of frauds precludes the enforcement of any promise to employ that cannot be performed within one calendar year unless the promise or agreement upon which such action shall be brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, shall be in writing, and signed by the party to be charged therewith, or some other person thereunto by him lawfully authorized. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 80/1. The statute of frauds' writing requirement is not intended to enable parties to repudiate contracts that have in fact been made; it is only to prevent the fraudulent enforcement of asserted contracts that were not made. Thus, in order to succeed on his claim of promissory estoppel, a plaintiff must--as a threshold matter--present to the court written evidence of an "unambiguous promise" which, but for the existence of bargained-for consideration, would constitute an enforceable contractual agreement under Illinois law--something which he has failed to accomplish.
Cliff Dumas, a country music radio personality, filed a diversity action in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico against Infinity Broadcasting Corporation ("Infinity") and its Chicago affiliate, WUSN-FM ("US-99"). In his complaint, Dumas alleged that he was entitled to monetary damages for breach of contract and promissory estoppel arising out of an unfulfilled employment agreement with US-99. Shortly after the complaint was filed, the case was transferred on Infinity's motion to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Following discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56. The district court agreed and granted the defendants' motion, finding that Dumas' claim for breach of contract was barred by the Illinois statute of frauds and, as a result, his promissory estoppel claim was untenable. Dumas appealed.
The court of appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on finding that the district court properly determined that the documentary evidence the plaintiff presented in the form of e-mails fell short of establishing the essential elements of a contract, and thus, the requirement of the Illinois statute of frauds, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 80/1, that documentary evidence of a "promise or agreement" be produced, could not be satisfied. The court of appeals agreed that the absence of the essential elements of a contract also effectively foreclosed any legitimate promissory estoppel argument that the defendant may have had and thus the district court properly granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's promissory estoppel claim because such a claim was not available to avoid the statute of frauds.