Legal Memorandum: Elements of a Promissory Estoppel Claim in GA

Issue: What are the elements of a claim for promissory estoppel under Georgia law?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts
Keywords: Promissory estoppel claim; Elements of claim
Jurisdiction: Georgia
Cited Cases: 526 S.E.2d 409; 546 F. Supp. 666; 455 S.E.2d 393; 457 N.W.2d 793; 498 S.E.2d 152; 133 N.W.2d 267; 161 F.3d 1334; 235 Neb. 738
Cited Statutes: Ga. Code § 13-3-44; Restatement (Second) of Contracts (Second) § 90
Date: 04/01/2001

           The Georgia Supreme Court has held that the statute of frauds is no bar to a promissory estoppel claim.  20/20 Vision Ctr., Inc. v. Hudgens, 256 Ga. 129, 345 S.E.2d 330, 335 n.7 (1986); see Kamat v. Allatoona Fed. Sav. Bank, 231 Ga. App. 259, 498 S.E.2d 152, 155 (1998) (recognizing that 20/20 Vision “clearly states . . . that where a purported contract was not enforceable such did not preclude a claim predicated on a theory of promissory estoppel”); Johnson v. University Health Servs., Inc., 161 F.3d 1334, 1340 (11th 1998) (same).

As noted above, the mere fact that a promise is unenforceable under common-law contract principles does not mean that a promissory estoppel claim fails also.  See 20/20 Vision Ctr., 345 S.E.2d at 335 n.7.  Indeed, promissory estoppel, an equitable doctrine, “is intended to counteract the occasional harshness of common law rules.”  Johnson, 161 F.3d at 1340.  Although it is true that promissory estoppel is not available where the alleged promise is so vague and indefinite that the court cannot determine whether there was any promise at all, the doctrine does not require the degree of specificity required by contract principles.  See Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores, Inc., 133 N.W.2d 267, 275 (Wis. 1965) (Promissory estoppel does not require “that the promise giving rise to the cause of action be so comprehensive in scope as to meet the requirements of an offer that would ripen into a contract if […]

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