Law School Case Brief
Midwest Energy v. Orion Food Sys., Inc. - 14 S.W.3d 154 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000)
A plaintiff who can point to evidence which, if believed, would permit a judge or jury to find each of elements promissory estoppel, is entitled to go to trial without prior judicial determination as to whether the case is "extreme." The essence of the plaintiff's case is justifiable reliance causing damage.
Plaintiff Midwest Energy, a Missouri corporation, operates a chain of service station convenience stores in Southeast Missouri. Defendant Orion Food Systems, Inc., a South Dakota corporation, has developed recipes and equipment for several fast food systems for which it issues franchises to local outlets. Defendant Ted Ries at material times was the district sales manager for Orion in the area in which Midwest has facilities. Plaintiff Midwest brought an action against Defendants based on breach of contract by Defendant in failing to grant a franchise to Plaintiff; promissory estoppel against Defendant; and fraud and deceit against Defendant's agent for willfully misstating the extent of his authority. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants on all three counts. Plaintiff Midwest appealed.
Did the trial court err in granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment, which dismissed Plaintiff's action for promissory estoppel?
The appellate court reversed the entry of summary judgment and remanded, concluding that plaintiff Midwest had proffered sufficient evidence to establish fact questions as to the elements of promissory estoppel. The court concluded that the essence of Midwest's case is justifiable reliance causing damage. Under Section 90 recoveries have been permitted that might not have been allowed under traditional contract doctrine. If Midwest has demonstrated that there is a genuine issue of fact as to each one of the essential elements as defined in the cases, then the motion for summary judgment was improvidently granted. If there is no genuine issue as to the existence of any one of these elements, then summary judgment is appropriate. The court concluded that Midwest's proffer is sufficient to establish fact questions as to all four essential elements.
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