updated 01:40 pm EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Apple insists promise was 'too vague'
A judge for the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Carol Overton, has given the go-ahead for a lawsuit targeting Apple over job promises. The plaintiff, Wayne Goodrich, says that he reported directly to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs for over 20 years, including not just time at Apple -- where he spent 17 years -- but also at Pixar and NeXT. His role involved preparing Jobs' public presentations, which have often been a huge draw for the media and helped to sell products like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone.
Goodrich claims that in 2005, Jobs promised him that he would always have a job at Apple, regardless of what happened to his position or Jobs himself. Nevertheless Goodrich was fired from Apple in December 2011, just two months after Jobs' death from pancreatic cancer. In his lawsuit Goodrich claims this happened for "business reasons" unconnected to job performance, and as compensation he is seeking punitive damages for lost wages and restricted stock units worth over $1 million.
Until Tuesday, lawyers for Apple had been pursuing a summary judgment, arguing that Jobs' alleged promise was "too vague" to establish the existence of a contract, and that Goodrich was really under "at will" terms that let Apple fire him at any time. They also suggested that the firing happened because Schiller had no use for Goodrich after Jobs' death, rather than as an attempt to deny him stock. "The evidence simply did not show [Apple marketing head] Phil Schiller knew the amount of the restricted stock units when he made the decision to terminate," wrote Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe attorney Joseph Liburt.
In her ruling, Overton says she found enough evidence to go to trial based on the legitimacy of the reasons for his firing. Apple lawyers have already objected, and Overton is expected to make a final ruling within the next several days.