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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Oct 1, 2012

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Stanley Eugene Graham, Bahar Azhdari, John J. Park, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ford Motor Company.

Attorneys 2:

David W. Garrison, Donald N. Caparella, Scott Patton Tift, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Earl Thomas Burgess.

Judge(s): COTTRELL

A management employee working for Ford Motor Company was to become an employee of Ford’s wholly owned subsidiary when the subsidiary was made an independent company. The manager wanted to remain employed by Ford and sought to transfer back to an hourly position before the spinoff took effect. The manager’s supervisor promised the manager his benefits and pay would not change as an employee of the subsidiary and that he could return to an hourly position with Ford after the spinoff until such time that the subsidiary was purchased by a third party. The subsidiary was purchased by a third party five years later, but Ford did not permit the employee to transfer back to Ford at that point. After the employee asked to transfer back to Ford, Ford offered its hourly employees a special retirement plan whereby they were offered lifetime health and pension benefits. The employee would have been eligible to participate in this plan if he had been allowed to transfer back to Ford. The employee filed suit against Ford, claiming promissory estoppel and seeking damages based on the amount he would have received under the special retirement plan. A jury found Ford liable for promissory estoppel and awarded the employee damages. Ford appealed, arguing (1) the employee’s claim was preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act and (2) the employee failed to prove all the elements of promissory estoppel. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.