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An indefinite hiring is prima facie a hiring at will. A hiring at so much a week, month or year, no time being specified, does not, of itself, make more than an indefinite hiring. It is competent for the parties to show what the mutual understanding was, but unless there was a mutual understanding, it is only an indefinite hiring.
Gill and B. J. Fadden had been partners in a manufacturers' representative business known as Eastronics. They later incorporated under the name of Eastronics, Inc. In 1969 conversations took place between the executive vice-president of Computer and Messrs. Gill and Fadden culminating in a contract under which shares of Eastronics stock were exchanged for shares of Computer, Gill and Fadden were employed by Computer, provision was made for bonuses to them based upon the earnings of a new division to be known as "Peripheral Systems Division of Computer Equipment" set up to take over the business of Eastronics, an annual salary of $ 25,000 each was agreed upon as to Gill and Fadden, and each stockholder agreed that "should he leave the employment of Computer for any reason, he [would] not compete with Computer for a period of two (2) years following such termination of employment." The relationship between the parties terminated when Computer sent Gill a telegram on July 8, 1970, advising that sales were not developing satisfactorily, that Gill's employment was terminated that date "with salary including vacation paid thru end of July," and that his [*173] "rights to any future CEC shares earned under terms purchase agreement between CEC and shareholders of Eastronics [would] of course be protected for the term of the agreement." This suit followed on September 2, 1970. The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $ 20,000 in favor of Gill. The trial judge permitted the introduction of testimony of prior discussions between Gill and Computer's representative because he felt that the written agreement was rendered ambiguous by an apparent conflict between two paragraphs. On the motion for judgment n.o.v. the court reversed itself, holding that it had erred in permitting admission of this testimony, that the contract was not ambiguous.
Did the trial court properly enter judgment, notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the employer?
Section 11.01 of the contract provided that "[e]ffective immediately upon Closing Computer agree[d] to employ each of the Stockholders at an annual salary of $ 25,000.00, and the Stockholders agree[d] to accept such employment and devote their full time and best efforts thereto." It was silent as to the period of employment. At no point was there evidence presented from any source that Computer bound itself to employ Gill and Fadden for a three-year period. The contract sent to them did not call for this. Other parties present even denied Gill's version of what was said. Nothing was offered to bind Computer other than the assumption of the witness. Accordingly, assuming arguendo that the parol evidence was admissible, Gill has failed to establish an employment contract other than a hiring at will. Therefore, Judge Mathias did not err in entering judgment n.o.v. in favor of Computer, the defendant.