United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
For Dori Dugas-Filippi, Robert Filippi, Plaintiffs: Scott A. Reinglass, Thomas Frank Cameli, Radogno, Cameli & Hoag, P.C., Chicago, IL.
For JP Morgan Chase, N.A., Defendant: William Francis Dugan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Isabel Lazar, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL; Lauren Suzanne Wachsman, Seyfarth Shaw Llp, Boston, MA.
For JP Morgan Chase & Co, Counter Claimant, Counter Defendant: William Francis Dugan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Isabel Lazar, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL; Lauren Suzanne Wachsman, Seyfarth Shaw Llp, Boston, MA.
For Dori Dugas-Filippi, Counter Defendant: Scott A. Reinglass, Thomas Frank Cameli, Radogno, Cameli & Hoag, P.C., Chicago, IL.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Hon. JOHN Z. LEE, U.S. District Judge. Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland.
This wrongful termination case was brought by Plaintiffs Dori Dugas-Filippi and Robert Filippi (" Plaintiffs" ) over Dugas-Filippi's termination from her position as an executive assistant at Defendant JP Morgan Chase & Co. (" Defendant" ). At a settlement conference between the parties, a dispute arose as to whether Dugas-Filippi could be awarded damages in the form of " front pay" based upon her claim of promissory estoppel. By Minute Order dated December 21, 2012, the Court directed the parties, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16, to " brief the issue of the availability of front pay in this case," and further instructed that " [s]olely for the purpose of this motion, the parties are to assume (1) that the facts as stated by Plaintiffs in their depositions are true, (2) that any credibility determinations that need to be made with respect to witnesses with conflicting testimony are made in favor of Plaintiffs, and (3) all reasonable inferences from the record are drawn in favor of Plaintiffs." (Dkt. 115.)
Given the scope of that Order, the Court does not address the question of whether Plaintiffs would prevail on their promissory estoppel claim. The Court addresses only the narrow issue of whether front pay is available as a remedy for a promissory estoppel claim under Illinois law. Although the Illinois Supreme Court has not spoken as to the issue, the Court concludes that Illinois law would not foreclose a plaintiff from seeking " front pay" as part of the relief sought for a promissory estoppel claim.
The crux of Plaintiffs' promissory estoppel claim is their contention that Dugas-Filippi was promised by her supervisor that she would not be terminated for taking an " agreed upon paid leave of absence." (Am. Compl. ¶ 31.) After Dugas-Filippi returned from her paid leave, she was informed by Defendant that she had to pay back the wages she received during her leave or face termination. She refused and was consequently terminated. As part of their promissory estoppel claim, Plaintiffs seek " front pay" ( i.e., the future earnings she would have received if she had been allowed to remain in her position). Defendant argues that front pay is not available, as a matter of law, for promissory estoppel claims under Illinois law. The Court disagrees.
Under Illinois law, promissory estoppel is an offensive, equitable cause of action frequently asserted by a party as an alternative to a breach of contract claim. Newton Tractor Sales, Inc. v. Kubota Tractor Corp., 233 Ill.2d 46, 906 N.E.2d 520, 524, 528, 329 Ill.Dec. 322 (Ill. 2009). As the Illinois Supreme Court has explained, the doctrine of promissory estoppel " has been incorporated into the Restatement (Second) of Contracts as section 90," and " provides, in relevant part," that: " [a]
promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promise or a third person and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. The remedy granted for breach may be limited as justice requires." Id. at 523. Plaintiffs pressing wrongful termination claims in Illinois have been permitted to seek recovery on the basis of promissory estoppel. See Janda v. U.S. Cellular Corp., 2011 IL App (1st) 103552, 961 N.E.2d 425, 444, 356 Ill.Dec. 329 (Ill.App.Ct. 2011). The Seventh Circuit also has recognized promissory ...