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McInerney v. Charter Golf, Inc.

Supreme Court of Illinois
680 N.E.2d 1347 (1997)


Dennis McInerney (plaintiff) worked as a sales representative for Charter Golf, Inc. (Charter) (defendant), a golf supply and apparel company. One of Charter's competitors offered McInerney a sales-representative position with an 8 percent commission rate. McInerney telephoned Charter's president to let him know he was accepting the competitor's offer. Charter’s president urged McInerney to stay with the company; the president promised McInerney that he would receive a 10 percent commission rate on his sales in some states "for the remainder of his life" and that he could only be discharged from his position for dishonesty or disability. McInerney accepted Charter’s offer in exchange for this guarantee of lifetime employment. Three years later, the relationship between McInerney and Charter deteriorated, and Charter fired McInerney. McInerney filed an action against Charter for breach of contract. The trial court granted summary judgment to Charter, holding that the oral agreement between McInerney and Charter’s president was unenforceable under the statute of frauds because a contract for lifetime employment could not be performed within one year of its making. McInerney appealed. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment under a different theory. The appellate court held that no lifetime employment contract between McInerney and Charter existed because McInerney's promise to forgo another job opportunity was insufficient consideration to convert his at-will employment relationship with Charter into a lifetime employment contract. McInerney appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Heiple, J.)

Dissent (Nickels, J.)

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