Coan v. Orsinger

105 U.S. App. D.C. 201, 265 F.2d 575 (1959)



The fact that a contract may be terminated, or further performance rendered impossible, within the period of one year, does not take it out of the statute of frauds where the obligation is one which cannot be performed within the year; that discharge from liability under a contract is not performance thereof.


The employer's president orally agreed to hire the employee as the resident manager of an apartment development operated by the employer, with the agreement to continue until the employee completed his law studies or was obliged to discontinue them. A month later, the president notified the employee that the contract was terminated. On the employee's action for breach of contract, the district court awarded summary judgment to the president and the employer.


Is the oral agreement to hire the employee after finishing his education more than one year hence barred by the statute of frauds?




The court held that the suit was barred by the statute of frauds, 12 D.C. Code § 302 (1951). The contract was impossible to perform within the space of one year because the employee had just started law school. The contingency in the contract providing for the contract to be annulled if the employee was obliged to discontinue his law studies did not help to further the performance of the contract, but rather served to defeat it, rendering performance impossible. Thus, it did not constitute a performance that took the case out of the operation of the statute.

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