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Weitz Co. v. Hands, Inc. - 294 Neb. 215, 882 N.W.2d 659 (2016)

Rule:

In Nebraska, a claim of promissory estoppel requires a plaintiff to show: (1) a promise that the promisor should have reasonably expected to induce the plaintiff's action or forbearance, (2) the promise did in fact induce the plaintiff's action or forbearance, and (3) injustice can only be avoided by enforcing the promise. The promise need not be definite enough to support a unilateral contract, but it must be definite enough to show that the plaintiff's reliance on it was reasonable and foreseeable. 

Facts:

Plaintiff Weitz Company, LLC (Weitz), a general contractor, received an invitation to bid on a planned nursing facility. Defendant Hands, Inc., doing business as H & S Plumbing and Heating (H&S), submitted a bid to Weitz for the plumbing work, as well as the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) parts of the job. Weitz' bid to the project owner incorporated the amount of H&S' bid. After the owner awarded the project to Weitz, H&S refused to honor its bid. Weitz completed the project with different subcontractors at greater expense. At trial, Weitz sought to enforce H&S' bid under a theory of promissory estoppel. The trial court determined that Weitz reasonably and foreseeably relied on H&S' bid, and it therefore estopped H&S from reneging. The court measured Weitz' damages as the difference between H&S' bid and the amount Weitz paid to substitute subcontractors. H&S appeals. 

Issue:

Was H&S bound by promissory estoppel because Weitz reasonably and foreseeably relied on the bid?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The trial court did not err in entering a judgment for a general contractor on its promissory estoppel claim against a subcontractor. H&S' bid was a promise to perform the work described in the bid. H&S said it was "bidding the Plumbing, Hydronic Piping, & HVAC portion" of the project and specifically listed the work that it was willing to perform. H&S asked for the general contractors' "consideration" and hoped to "be of service" to them. And H&S should have foreseen that Weitz would rely on its bid. The subcontractor's bid was a promise, and it should have foreseen that the general contractor, as was usual in the construction industry, might rely on the bid. The general contractor reasonably relied on the subcontractor's bid by incorporating it in the general contractor's own bid.

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