Appeal from Circuit Court, Multnomah County. Charles S. Crookham, Judge.
John R. Bakkensen, Portland, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Miller, Anderson, Nash, Yerke & Wiener, Portland.
Nick Chaivoe, Portland, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Peterson, Chaivoe & Peterson, Portland.
This is an action for damages for wrongful discharge during the term of an employment contract. The case was tried before the court, without a jury. Defendants appeal from a judgment awarding plaintiff $8,500 as compensation for lost income, together with $1,115.37 for expenses incurred in seeking other employment.
Defendants' assignments of error raise four issues to be decided: (1) whether there was a binding and enforceable contract of employment; (2) whether defendant Black Diamond Enterprises, Inc., was a responsible party for breach of the employment contract; (3) whether defendants were entitled under a general denial to offer evidence that plaintiff failed to perform under his alleged employment contract and that he was discharged for cause; and (4) whether plaintiff's evidence of damages for expenses incurred in seeking other employment was insufficient as a matter of law.
In 1969 defendant Amigo Motor Homes, Inc. (Amigo) was engaged in the manufacture of aluminum motorhomes. Amigo's management then decided to design and produce fiber glass motorhomes, but had no experience with fiber glass.
In April 1969, an Amigo representative met plaintiff at a sport show where he was displaying a fiber glass kayak which he had made. Plaintiff then operated Starliner, Inc., a small corporation in Eugene, which had produced kayaks and also two fiber glass van conversion units by a "hand laminated" process, using molds made by plaintiff. Amigo's representative then knew nothing about fiber glass, but knew that plaintiff's plant was small; that plaintiff
was using a "hand laminated" process, and that he "had only a few small molds." They found, however, that plaintiff's van conversion units were "excellent" and did not ask him about the use of automatic equipment.
According to Amigo's representatives, plaintiff told them that he had experience in building some fiber glass parts for motorhomes; that he could make any type of mold, and that he had the qualifications required to manufacture molds for fiber glass motorhomes. They also testified that they wanted these molds completed by December 1969, so as to be in production by January 1, 1970.
According to plaintiff, Amigo's representatives were aware of the nature and extent of his experience with fiber glass; that although he said that he could build a fiber glass motorhome in four months, that period did not expire until the end of December; that what Amigo wanted him to do was to build a fiber glass exterior for its motorhomes, not fiber glass interior parts, and that he was told that December 4 was the deadline for the "exterior" molds.
On August 14, 1969, Amigo delivered a letter to plaintiff offering to buy the assets of Starliner, Inc., for 2,175 shares of stock in defendant Black Diamond Enterprises, Inc. (the sole owner of Amigo's stock), plus $10,000 in cash. The letter also proposed that plaintiff enter into an employment contract with Amigo for a term of one year, at a salary of $800 per month through October 30, 1969, and "thereafter * * * at least $1,000 per month," and that plaintiff move to Forest Grove for full time employment "in the capacity of foreman of the corporation's plastics and fiberglass department." The letter also stated that "if the
foregoing offer to purchase is acceptable please sign and return one copy of ...