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Davison v. Board of Trustees

OPINION FILED MARCH 22, 1985.

DENNIS A. DAVISON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF CARL SANDBURG COLLEGE, DISTRICT NO. 518, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. Harry C. Bulkeley, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HEIPLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff-appellant, Dennis A. Davison, brought suit against the defendant-appellee, board of trustees of Carl Sandburg College, District No. 518 (hereafter the college), to recover damages for the alleged breach of the plaintiff's employment contract. After a bench trial, judgment was entered for the defendant, and this appeal followed. We affirm.

We note at this point that no appellee's brief has been submitted by the college. It is well established, however, that where the record is simple and the court of review can easily decide the disputed errors without an appellee's brief, the reviewing court may decide the merits of the appeal. First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp. (1976), 63 Ill.2d 128, 345 N.E.2d 493.

The underlying facts of this case are not in dispute. Davison was a full-time instructor at the college during the 1982-1983 academic year. In January of 1983, Davison and the college agreed that he would teach summer school that year. At the time the parties made that agreement, each understood that Davison would be paid at the rate for a full-time instructor.

In February 1983, Davison was denied tenure by the college. He was offered, however, a one-year probationary contract for the 1983-1984 school year. In April 1983, Davison informed the college through his supervisor and the board of trustees that he would resign. His resignation was accepted, and Davison's written contract of employment terminated by its terms on May 25, 1983.

Davison's summer employment was, therefore, not governed by the written contract. Instead, the contract for the summer employment was the oral agreement reached between the parties in January 1983. The terms of that contract indicated that Davison would be paid at the full-time rate.

After Davison tendered his resignation, the dean of students determined that his rate of pay for summer employment would be that of a part-time instructor. Davison was informed of this decision in late April or early May 1983. At that time, he objected to being paid at the part-time rate. The day before the summer term began, Davison's supervisor inquired as to whether he was going to teach summer school. Davison then said that he would teach.

Davison taught 12 hours of class during summer school. He was paid for that work at the part-time rate. The difference between his salary at the full-time rate and at the part-time rate was $1,200.

After receiving his first payment check for the summer work, he instituted a grievance proceeding against the college to obtain the higher full-time rate of pay. In addition, when Davison received checks from the college during the summer, he endorsed them on the back with the following language or words to this effect:

"My endorsement on this instrument does not imply my agreement that the amount is all that is due to me at this time."

The college refused Davison's grievance. The plaintiff then filed the instant action.

The trial court entered judgment in favor of the college, stating that the college had sought to modify the oral summer employment contract it had made with Davison so as to pay the part-time instructor rate. The trial court further held that such a modification would ordinarily be a nudum pactum because it was done without consideration, thereby giving the party against whom the change was sought the right to repudiate the modification and claim the full amount specified in the original contract. The trial court found, however, that one may waive performance of the original agreement and ratify the modified contract. If this is done and the party fully performs and accepts the benefit of the new agreement, he cannot later repudiate it and sue for the difference. Although Davison was under no obligation to teach summer school at the part-time rate, the court concluded that once he fulfilled his part-time teaching contract, he could not repudiate the modified contract and recover the full-time rate of pay.

We believe this view is essentially correct. The dean's actions amounted to an offer to modify an executory agreement. By carrying the modified contract into effect and accepting its benefits, Davison ratified the new agreement and waived performance of the original contract. Hines v. Ward Baking Co. (7th Cir. 1946), 155 F.2d 257; Snow v. Griesheimer (1906), 220 Ill. 106.

Davison contends that the Hines rationale is inapposite because there is no evidence here to indicate that he agreed to accept the terms of the modified contract before ...


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