Recent Developments in New York Law
Nadler, Pamela A, Amera, Seth D, St. John's Law Review
This issue of Volume 71 analyzes recent developments in New York law. In Lustigman v. Harris Publications, Inc., the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, permitted an employee to maintain a lawsuit on the basis of fraudulent inducement by denying the employer's motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. While the court reiterated that an at-will employee generally may not maintain a breach of contract claim, the court found the employee sufficiently alleged a separate cause of action for fraudulent inducement. The fraudulent inducement theory normally maintains that the employer, while recruiting the prospective employee, misrepresented facts concerning a material aspect of the position, and thereby enticed the employee to rely detrimentally on the misrepresentation. The writer asserts that the Lustigman court correctly denied the employer's motion to dismiss the claim by recognizing the right of an at-will employee to maintain an action for fraudulent inducement. Furthermore, the writer notes the distinctions between actions based on breach of contract and those based on fraudulent inducement.
Recently in People v. Williams and Haynes, the New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, reaffirmed the interpretation of the New State Constitution as providing a higher level of protection to its citizens in search and seizure cases than the United States Constitution. The court clarified the distinction between the state and federal search and seizure provisions. Furthermore, the court concluded that the New York State Constitution prohibits police officers from using the pretext of a traffic violation to stop vehicles in order to investigate unrelated offenses for which the officers have no reasonable suspicion. The Williams court recognized that although the Federal Constitution does not supply grounds to challenge the reasonableness of a traffic stop based upon the actual motivation of the police officer so long as probable cause existed to make the stop, the New York State Constitution prohibits pretextual traffic stops. The writer suggests that although the state can provide greater protections than the Federal Constitution, New York courts should not delve into the subjective motivations of police officers in determining whether a traffic stop is legal.
The members of Volume 71 hope this review of New York case law will be of interest to both the bench and the bar.
Lustigman v. Harris Publications, Inc.: New York Supreme Court permits an at-will employee to maintain a cause of action for fraudulent inducement against the employer.
An irrefutable aspect of the at-will employment doctrine is that an employer has the unfettered right to discharge an employee for any cause,' unless this right is limited by some other means or the employer's actions fall within the parameters of an anti-discrimination statute.3 When an individual is hired for an indefinite term, the presumption of at-will employment arises.4 The consequence of this presumption is that an at-will employee has no cause of action for breach of contract when the employer terminates or modifies the employment relationship.5 New York continues to be a strong at-will employment state.6While other states have vitiated the doctrine with the recognition of significant exceptions, New York has continuously refused to do so.7 In accordance with this traditional adherence to the employment at-will rule, New York courts have been reluctant to permit an employee to maintain a lawsuit upon theories of either fraudulent inducement or intentional misrepresentation.8 Nevertheless, in Lustigman v. Harris Publications, Inc.,9 the New York State Supreme Court, New York County permitted a fraudulent inducement claim to stand by denying an employer's motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.10
In Lustigman, the defendant ("Harris Publications") began recruiting the plaintiff ("Lustigman") in May of 1995 for the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine Outdoor Gear. …