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Housing Authoruty, City of Laurel v. State

December 18, 1998

THE HOUSING AUTHORITY, CITY OF LAUREL, APPELLANT MISSISSIPPI
v.
IRVIN H. GATLIN APPELLEE



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Coleman, And Payne, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMILLIN, P.j.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/19/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. BILLY JOE LANDRUM

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JONES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CONTRACT

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SUMMARY JUDGMENT GRANTED IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, JUDGMENT FOR $36,000

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND RENDERED - 12/18/98

¶1. This case involves a dispute between the City of Laurel Housing Authority and Irvin Gatlin. Gatlin filed suit in the Jones County Circuit Court, claiming that the Authority had breached an oral contract to hire him. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Gatlin and awarded damages of $36,000, an amount equal to the anticipated salary for the position for one year. The Authority has appealed that decision. We reverse and render the judgment of the trial court.

I.

Facts

¶2. The Authority advertised for the services of an individual to fill a position somewhat colorfully referred to as "Clerk of the Works" for a fixed term, estimated to be approximately ten months. Gatlin responded to the advertisement and was ultimately hired for the position by written contract. During the time these events were transpiring, the Authority was pursuing certain federal funding for a project that, if successful, would provide additional money for the project on which Gatlin was working. Gatlin claims that, at the time he was retained under the contract, he and the Authority's executive director had an understanding that Gatlin would be converted from a contract employee to a full-time employee if the additional funding application was successful. In the specific words of Gatlin's complaint, the executive director "explained to the Plaintiff that it was the intention of the Housing Authority to make the position permanent and transfer the Plaintiff from an independent contractual relationship to a regular employee status."

¶3. As the ten month contract period neared an end, the additional funding had not been secured. The Authority and Gatlin agreed to extend his existing contract for two additional months under the same terms (except for a slight modification in the level of compensation that has no bearing on this case). The parties executed a brief written agreement evidencing their understanding. The Authority concedes that, at the end of this two month extension, it had received final approval for the federal funding that included a budget line item of $36,000 for the position Gatlin had been promised by the Executive Director. However, the Authority's Board of Trustees, as a part of a general hiring freeze, declined to approve Gatlin as a full-time permanent employee. He, therefore, ceased any affiliation with the Authority when his two month contract extension ended.

¶4. After the Authority refused to make Gatlin a full-time employee, he filed this action as a breach of contract suit. The Authority answered, raising a number of affirmative defenses, including a claim that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Both parties filed summary judgment motions. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Gatlin and assessed his damages at $36,000, the anticipated salary of the position for one year.

ΒΆ5. The Authority perfected this appeal, citing four issues for review by this Court. We find the first issue to have merit. Therefore, there is no ...


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