This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ' 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).


Ica Cristescu,


James G. McEachran, D.D.S., et al.,

Filed July 2, 1996

Short, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. 9511958

Floyd E. Grabiel, II, Suite 308, 5200 Willson Road, Edina,  MN 55424-1332 (for Appellant)

Terence M. Fruth, John E. Murray, Fruth & Anthony, P.A., 3750 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis,  MN 55402 (for Respondents)

Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

SHORT, Judge

Ica Cristescu relocated from Fargo to Minneapolis to work as a dental assistant at Dr. James G. McEachran and Mary T. McEvoy, D.D.S., P.A. (employer). After three days on the job, the employer terminated Cristescu's at-will employment. Cristescu sued the employer for relocation expenses and lost wages under a promissory estoppel theory. The employer moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. On appeal, Cristescu argues the trial court erred by concluding the employer's promise and her damages were legally insufficient to sustain her claims. We affirm.


In response to a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must present "specific facts" demonstrating a material issue of fact. Patton v. Newmar Corp., 538 N.W.2d 116, 119 (Minn. 1995). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the trial court correctly applied the law. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).

A promise may be enforced under the doctrine of promissory estoppel when (1) it is clear and definite, (2) the promisor intended to induce the promisee to rely on the promise, (3) the promisee relied on the promise to her detriment, and (4) enforcement of the promise is required to prevent an injustice. Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 479 N.W.2d 387, 391 (Minn. 1992). Summary judgment is appropriate when a party fails to establish the existence of any evidence to support an essential element of its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986).

Cristescu does not claim the employer promised to provide performance review or restrict its discretion to terminate her at-will employment. Instead, Cristescu argues she is entitled to damages because the employer denied her a reasonable opportunity to perform her duties. Compare Grouse v. Group Health Plan, Inc., 306 N.W.2d 114, 116 (Minn. 1981) (holding it would be unjust under a theory of promissory estoppel not to enforce the employer's promise when the plaintiff was denied the opportunity to perform his duties to the satisfaction of the employer) and Gorham v. Benson Optical, 539 N.W.2d 798, 801-02 (Minn. App. 1995) (reversing summary judgment on a promissory estoppel claim because the plaintiff was denied the opportunity to perform his duties after employment had begun) with Pine River State Bank v. Mettille, 333 N.W.2d 622, 626-27 (Minn. 1983) (stating an offer of employment on particular terms, if accepted, may create a binding unilateral contract). But the record demonstrates Cristescu assisted the dentists and treated patients for three days. During that employment, Cristescu: (1) failed to hand a dentist the correct instruments; (2) could not assemble a common band-type instrument used in filling teeth; (3) experienced difficulty communicating with patients about teeth-cleaning procedures; and (4) failed to use sufficient care while inserting suction devices into patients' mouths. Unlike the employees in Grouse and Gorham, Christescu received a good-faith opportunity to perform her duties as a dental assistant to the satisfaction of her new employer. The employer simply was not satisfied. Under these circumstances, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the employer because the employer's promise of at-will employment is legally insufficient to support her promissory estoppel claim.



* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ' 10.