Yesterday, one of our writers argued that Duncan would only need to cover airfare if Lois brought a claim against him under a theory of Promissory Estoppel. In this bonus content, the other writer will take the opposite approach.
The principle of Promissory Estoppel dictates that the court will use equitable principles where there are no actual contractual terms to dictate what should happen. So a court will look at the statement of one party, and how the other party should reasonably rely on that statement.
Notice that Duncan says “I’ll send you to Hawaii for two weeks.” The important text here is “two weeks,” since it implies that Lois could reasonably believe that Duncan was going to pay for travel expenses for two weeks. So we need to ask ourselves: what would a person do to prepare for a vacation? This would likely not only include the airfare, but also hotel expenses, since Lois would need somewhere to stay for two weeks. Furthermore, if Lois had rented a car then she would also be entitled to compensation for Duncan. These are the types of expenses that most people would take in preparation for a vacation.
As for other expenses, like food and entertainment, we think Duncan would not be on the hook to compensate Lois for any incurred expenses before she travelled to Hawaii. It is extremely rare for anyone to pay for food in advance of travel, so it would not be expected for Lois to do so. As for entertainment, well it doesn’t seem likely that a simple statement like “I’ll send you to Hawaii for two weeks” would imply that Duncan would also cover entertainment costs. There would need to be more, like “all expenses paid” or “dream Hawaii vacation.”
Duncan could have one final argument: that he said “I’ll send you to Hawaii for two weeks.” He very clearly states that he will be the one to do so, and gave no indication that Lois should go ahead and start booking an expensive vacation. But the flip side of this argument is that Duncan, as Lois’ employer, likely often asks Lois to book travel on her own and then ask him or the company for reimbursement. If this were the normal course of business, and seems likely given anyone who has ever worked in an office, then Lois would have also reasonably believed that she should be the one to go ahead and start booking travel.
A friend of the blog, and longtime personal friend of the authors, noted that Duncan would probably only be liable for cancellation fees if Lois was able to cancel hotels and airfare. We thank him for that helpful clarification. He is 100% correct, and never spent one second in law school. (As an addendum to this, Lois may actually be obligated to cancel and seek a refund to mitigate the damages to Duncan. See our analysis in the Kiss Hello.)
All-in-all, if Lois did end up putting out some money in advance for her Hawaii trip Duncan may just have to compensate her for quite a bit of money. Maybe he will, maybe he will.