McGurn v. Bell Microproducts, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
284 F.3d 86 (2002)
Bell Microproducts, Inc. (defendant), sent a signed employment offer letter to George McGurn (plaintiff). Bell and McGurn had been negotiating a termination clause, particularly the length of the clause. The offer letter stated that if Bell terminated McGurn without cause within the first 12 months of his employment, he would be entitled to a severance package. McGurn crossed out 12 and wrote in 24. He then signed the letter and returned it to Bell. McGurn did not inform Bell he made this change. Bell fired McGurn without cause 13 months into his employment. Bell refused to pay McGurn a severance package. McGurn sued for breach of contract in Massachusetts Superior Court. Bell removed the case to federal court. There was no evidence that anyone at Bell was aware of McGurn’s alteration to the offer letter, but it was Bell’s practice to check the signature page of an offer letter to ensure that the letter was signed. In this case, McGurn’s alteration was on the second page of the letter, five inches above his signature. The district court granted summary judgment to McGurn, holding that Bell’s silence in response to McGurn’s counteroffer constituted acceptance. Bell appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lipez, J.)
Dissent (Selya, J.)
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