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COA rules in favor of chamber in breach of contract dispute

April 30, 2012

In its decision ordering summary judgment be entered in favor of the Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce in a lawsuit involving damages to a former employee, the Indiana Court of Appeals adopted the proposition that damages for breach of notice provisions are limited to compensation for the notice period.

In Walter B. Duncan v. The Greater Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce, Inc., No. 32A01-1109-CC-429, Walter Duncan sued the Greater Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce over the amount of damages he received after he was forced to resign as executive director in March 2010. The chamber’s board of directors voted to terminate his contract immediately, but Duncan was given the option of resigning. Per his resignation, he was to work one more week and take a three-week paid vacation. His daily salary was $138, so he was due just under $15,000 for working through April 18, one month after he submitted his resignation letter. The chamber paid more than $15,500 to him in 2010.

Duncan sued later that year, arguing he should have been due damages from the date of the alleged breach through the term of the contract. Both Duncan and the chamber filed for summary judgment. The chamber’s argument basically asks the appellate court to adopt the general proposition that damages for breach of a notice requirement are limited to the compensation for the notice period.

The COA did, adopting the majority rule that “the summary discharge of an employee entitled under the employment contract to a specified period of notice ordinarily permits him to recover his compensation for the notice period only and not for the entire balance of the contract period.” This is consistent with decisions from other jurisdictions.

Here, the contract required a 30-day written notice to the other party before canceling the employment agreement. The most that Duncan was entitled to recover then was 30 days compensation. He received more than what he was entitled to, so the appellate court declined to address whether the chamber actually breached the notice requirement. The judges ordered the trial court enter summary judgment in favor of the chamber.
 

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