Feinberg v. Pfeiffer Co.

322 S.W. 2d 163 (Mo. 1959)


Feinberg (P) worked for Pfeiffer Co. (D) for 37 years since 1910 when she was 17 years old. By 1947, she had attained the position of bookkeeper, office manager, and assistant treasurer of D and owned 70 shares of the 6,503 shares issued and outstanding. Over the years, she had received substantial dividends on the stock that she owned. In addition to her salary, she also got a bonus from 1937 to 1949 varying from $300 to $2,000. On December 27, 1947, a Board of Directors meeting was being held, and at that meeting, the Directors adopted a resolution. In recognition of P's long and faithful service, D adopted a resolution to increase P’s current salary from $350 per month to $400 and that she be given the privilege of retiring from active duty at any time that she may elect and when she does so to pay P $200 per month for life after her retirement. The Chairman stated at the time, that D wanted to show P its appreciation for her long and faithful service. The Chairman claimed that the resolution was adopted to afford P security for the future and that she would continue with D for many years to come. P was advised of the passage of this resolution on the same day at her apartment. At trial, P testified that she had no prior information that such a pension plan would be passed and it came as a surprise to her and that she would have continued in employment whether or not such a plan had been passed. P retired a year and a half after the board resolution and received $200 per month for several years. The retirement plan was a major factor in her decision to retire. Several years after her retirement, a new president of D notified P that her payments would be reduced to $100 per month. This was done after extensive consultation with their attorney and Ernst and Young, their accounting firm. They were under the impression that the payments were mere gratuities. P refused to accept the reduced amount, and D terminated all payments. P sued for breach of contract. The trial court found that there was no consideration in compensating past acts. The trial court then held that P was entitled to damages because she justifiably relied on D's promise. P got a judgment of $5,100 for the amount of the pension due as of the date of the trial with interest. D appealed.