What is “detrimental reliance”?

UPDATED: Oct 24, 2011

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What is “detrimental reliance”?

I relocated to a new city for a job that I was offered. After settling in I contacted the employer about my actual starting date and was informed it was going to be later than I was originally told. Then the employer refused to answer my calls and will not respond to voice messages, e-mails or text messages. This has caused me to spend a lot of money that I now feel was wasted. Can I sue?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Detrimental reliance allows someone to enforce another's promise or representation, even in the absence of an actual contract or agreement, in the following circumstances:

1) Person A made some representation or promise to person B

2) It was reasonable for person B to rely on it

3) Person B did something to his detriment in that reasonable reliance

4) Person A either knew or should have known that person B would do what he did

If an employer makes a credible job offer to an out of town employee and should therefore know or expect that the employee would relocate on the basis of that offer, and the employee does, the employee may be able to hold the employer liable for the costs, etc. incurred as a result of that promise. From what you write, it would be worthwhile for you to consult in detail with an employee about the facts of your matter; you may have a legal claim or case. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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