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Levine v. Firestone Hotel Group, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

January 30, 2015


Submitted: January 9, 2015

Decided: January 30, 2015 Upon Cross Motions in Limine Regarding Damages Plaintiff's Motion in Limine: DENIED

Defendants' Motion in Limine: GRANTED

Timothy J. Wilson, Esquire, The Wilson Firm, LLC, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Sidney S. Liebesman, Esquire, Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP, Attorney for Defendants.


Ferris W. Wharton, Judge

This 30th day of January, 2015, upon consideration of the parties' cross-motions in limine, it appears to the Court that:

1. Plaintiff Michael Levine ("Levine") brought this claim for promissory estoppel against Defendants Firestone Hotel Group, Inc. ("Firestone"), David Grimaldi ("Grimaldi"), Delaware Hotel Associates, L.P. ("DHA") and Minmetals, Inc. ("Minmetals") alleging that Grimaldi, acting on behalf of all defendants, promised Levine a position as Director of Sales and Marketing ("DOSM") at the Crowne Plaza Hotel ("Hotel") in Claymont, Delaware.[1] Levine alleges that he relied on that promise to his detriment when he resigned his position with Pyramid Hotel Group ("Pyramid"), owner of another hotel where he was employed, only to learn that the defendants were not going to fulfill their promise of employment.[2]Defendants deny that any final employment agreement was reached and deny that Levine is entitled relief.

2. The parties have requested a pre-trial ruling from the Court, via cross-motions in limine, as to the appropriate measure of damages should Levine prevail on the merits. Defendants argue that Levine's damages are limited to approximately four weeks of pay since Firestone (the entity which managed the hotel and Levine's prospective employer) was terminated along with all of its employees on February 12, 2012, four weeks after Levine's purported starting date of January 16th.[3] Levine maintains that the proper measure of damages is the extent to which he was injured due to resigning from his previous employment, including lost wages and other damages.[4]

3. The defendants all filled different roles with the hotel. Firestone managed the hotel.[5] DHA owned the hotel.[6] Minmetals owned DHA.[7] Grimaldi was the Managing Director of DHA, President of Firestone and Managing Director of Minmetals U.S. Real Estate Investment Group.[8]

4. In early September 2011, a representative of Firestone contacted Levine about a job opportunity at the hotel.[9] Ultimately, after a series of interviews and meetings with various individuals, including Grimaldi, Firestone tendered an offer letter to Levine to become DOSM at the hotel.[10] On December 19, 2011, Levine signed the offer letter to become DOSM as well as a non-competition agreement, and began performing work for the defendants.[11] Levine then submitted his resignation to Pyramid on December 27, 2011, effective January 13, 2012, anticipating a starting date with the hotel of January 16th.[12] What followed and why is a matter of dispute, but the end result was that Levine was not allowed to start work at the hotel and was unable to return to Pyramid.[13] As of the date of the filing of the Complaint, Levine had been unable to secure a position commensurate with his experience and convenient to his residence.[14]

5. On February 12, 2012, Firestone's management contract was terminated, causing all of Firestone's employees to be terminated on that date as well.[15] According to defendants, Levine understood that he would be working for Firestone as an at-will employee.[16] In the defendants' view, Levine's status as an at-will employee of Firestone, coupled with the fact that all of Firestone's employees were terminated on February 12th, limits Levine's potential recovery to the period from January 16th to February 12th.[17]

6. Levine argues that the proper measure of damages in a promissory estoppel case is the extent to which a plaintiff is injured.[18] Here, Levine's injuries were sustained when he resigned his employment with Pyramid based upon the unfulfilled promise of employment at the hotel with Firestone, resulting in lost wages and other damages.[19] He considers the fact that Firestone ceased managing the hotel irrelevant, because he suffered lost wages whether or not Firestone managed the hotel due to his resignation from Pyramid.[20] Thus, Levine claims that he is entitled wages lost as a result of his induced resignation from Pyramid even after Firestone was terminated.[21] Further, he contends that had he been employed by Firestone, it is mere speculation that he would have lost his job when Firestone was terminated, since it was entirely possible that the new management company would have retained him if he was already in place and working.[22]

7. Defendants point out that Levine knew that he was to be an at-will employee of Firestone.[23] In that capacity, Levine understood, "In the event that Firestone is no longer managing the property that means there is a strong possibility that I will be out of a job."[24] Defendants argue that Levine also understood that he was taking a "risk" with Firestone, citing Levine's own deposition testimony, "I was being hired by Firestone, so, the intention was to work for Firestone. So, if Firestone were no longer – Firestone was the entity that I was taking the risk on."[25] Defendants argue that it is beyond dispute that Levine would have lost his job along with all of the other Firestone employees when Firestone was ...

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