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Blinn v. Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center, Inc.

Nebraska Supreme Court
708 N.W.2d 235 (2006)


Facts

Blinn (plaintiff), age 67, was an at-will employee of Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center, Inc. (Beatrice) (defendant). In June 2002, Blinn received a job offer from a different hospital for a position he could keep until he retired. Blinn told Larry Emerson, Beatrice’s administrator, about the job offer and sought reassurances of his job security with Beatrice. Emerson told Blinn he was doing a good job, that he did not want him to leave Emerson, and that they had “at least five more years of work to do.” Blinn also spoke with the chairman of Beatrice’s board of directors. The chairman told Blinn that he wanted him to stay at Beatrice. After both of these conversations, Blinn decided to stay at Beatrice because he believed his job was secure. In January 2003, however, Blinn was asked to resign from Beatrice, and was terminated in February 2003. Blinn brought suit in Nebraska state court against Beatrice seeking recovery based on breach of an oral contract and promissory estoppel claims. Blinn alleged that his at-will contract with Beatrice was modified after oral representations made by Beatrice’s administrator and chairman of the board. Beatrice filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court found that the oral representations made by Beatrice’s leadership were not sufficiently definite to change Blinn’s at-will status and granted Beatrice’s motion for summary judgment. Blinn appealed, and the court of appeals reversed the granting of summary judgment for Beatrice. The court of appeals found genuine issues of material fact existing in Blinn’s claims for both breach of contract and promissory estoppel. Beatrice petitioned for review from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

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Holding and Reasoning (Gerrard, J.)

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