What constitutes an enforceable promise?

I was training horses for a client for 3 years. They told me 3 weeks ago they would be in training with me for at least 1 more year and then moved the horses leaving me with no income. She had no complaints. Do I have any recourse? I have email correspondence that backs up these facts but no contract.

Asked on August 23, 2013 under Business Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

To be enforceable, there must either be--

1) A contract, written or oral/verbal, which, among other things, requires mutual "consideration"--that is, each of you giving to the other something of value to bind the agreement; or

2) Promissory estoppel, which only exists if: i) the other party made a promise to you, which to accept ii) you'd have to do something to your detriment, like relocate or move, or give up an existing job; iii) the other party knew, or should have known, you'd do that thing to your detriment but iv) knowing that fact, still made the promise with the intention you would rely on it; and v) it was reasonable for  you to rely on it.

In the situation you describe, since you were already training horses for his person and did not do something to your detriment, like relocate or give up an existing job or other opportunity, it would not seem to be promissory estoppel. And without consideration--you giving something of value to bind the agreement--there would be no contract. In this case, the promise does not appear to be enforceable.

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