Error to the Court of Civil Appeals for the Tenth District, in an appeal from Johnson County.
Robert A. Kilpatrick, of Cleburne, Grady, Johnson, Bell & Lee and Robert C. Johnson, all of Dallas for petitioner.
James & Mahany, of Cleburne, and L. L. James, of Tyler, for respondent.
Mr. Justice Garwood delivered the opinion of the Court.
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The respondent-plaintiff, H. D. Hall, sued the petitioners-defendant, J. D. Hall, Jr., et al., a manufacturing partnership, for breach of an oral contract whereby the respondent-plaintiff was to represent the partnership in "developing" a theretofore untapped sales territory, consisting of approximately the northeast quarter of the United States, and selling therein at a 12% commission a principal product of the petitioners-defendant, being a door light called "Visador." Among other defenses the petitioners-defendant pleaded paragraph 5 of Art. 3995, Vernon's Texas Civ. Stats., barring action upon a promise or agreement "which is not to be performed within the space of one year from the making thereof" unless the same "be in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith * * *." The applicability of this statute to the contract in the light of jury findings presents the principal question in the case.
The respondent-plaintiff pleaded and introduced evidence to show that such contract was made, and that nothing was said about how long his agency should last, but that, by reason of the character and size of the undertaking and the large responsibility and freedom of action delegated to him in this connection, it was necessarily implied in the contract that the term thereof should be for a reasonable time, as distinguished from being terminable at will. He also pleaded and introduced evidence to prove that such a reasonable time was five years, but that after he had entered into and performed his duties for about
[ 1 Tex. Sup. J. Page 98]
two years, during which he invested some $17,000 of his own funds in the sales development work and had been paid all except about $900.00 of the several thousand dollars of commissions earned by him up to that time, the petitioners-defendant repudiated the contract, depriving him thereby of the large amount of additional commissions, which he would have earned had he been allowed to continue his agency, and also failing to pay him the $900 of earned commissions.
The trial court submitted sundry jury issues, in accordance with the foregoing theory of the case, the answers to all of which were in substance favorable to the respondent-plaintiff, including findings that the agency was terminated without good cause, and that plaintiff's damages as to future commissions were $27,000. The issues relevant to the principal question before us are Nos. 1 and 2, which with their respective answers are as follows:
"Special Issue No. 1: Do you find that at the time of the contract between H. D. Hall and J. D. Hall, Jr., on or about October 13, 1953, it was mutually understood by them both, whether expressed in words or not, that H. D. Hall should develop and sell Visador products in the northern territory for a reasonable time thereafter, or that such arrangements could be terminated at the end of any month by either party?"
To this the jury answered "For a reasonable time."
"Special Issue No. 2: How long do you find from a preponderance of the evidence, after October 15, 1953, was a reasonable time for such ...