Ex-Associate's Suit Can Proceed Against Flaster Greenberg
But Flaster Greenberg argued in its motion to dismiss that Jones could not overcome the presumption that she was an at-will employee of the firm, in part because she could not show that she suffered sufficient hardship as a result of her employment with the firm.
Padova, however, said Jones' allegations that she moved from Chicago to Pennsylvania to join Flaster Greenberg established that she "suffered a substantial hardship in order to begin her employment with Flaster, thus creating an implied contract for a reasonable period of employment."
Padova also disagreed with Flaster Greenberg's argument that Jones' claim for promissory estoppel/detrimental reliance should be dismissed because the alleged promise that she would be mentored by Calderone and other senior attorneys was too vague.
"We conclude that the promise alleged in the complaint, which specifically identified Calderone as an individual who would train, direct and mentor Jones, is not 'too vague and indefinite to constitute a "promise" for purposes of promissory estoppel,'" Padova said, quoting language from the 2005 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decision in Ankerstjerne v. Schlumberger.
Padova did, however, agree with Flaster Greenberg's argument that the alleged promise of being mentored by Calderone and other senior attorneys was not a sufficient basis for a negligent misrepresentation claim.
Padova said that was "a promise regarding actions in the future," rather than a "'present, material fact,'" as required by the 2013 Eastern District case Summit Trust v. Paul Ellis Investment Associates.
In addition, according to Padova, the allegation that Flaster Greenberg did not fulfill its promise cannot raise an inference that the promise was false when it was made.
Calderone deferred comment to Flaster Greenberg's attorney.
Counsel for the firm, Thomas J. Barton of Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment.
Jones' attorney, Edith Pearce of the Pearce Law Firm in Philadelphia, also could not be reached.
(Copies of the 15-page opinion in Jones v. Flaster Greenberg, PICS No. 13-3421, are available from The Legal Intelligencer. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.) •