Interbank of NY v. Fleet Bank

CourtNew York Civil Court
Citation730 N.Y.S.2d 208,189 Misc.2d 20
Decision Date17 July 2001
PartiesINTERBANK OF NEW YORK, Plaintiff,<BR>v.<BR>FLEET BANK, Defendant.

189 Misc.2d 20
730 N.Y.S.2d 208

INTERBANK OF NEW YORK, Plaintiff,
v.
FLEET BANK, Defendant.

July 17, 2001.


Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker L. L. P. (Constantine A. Despotakis of counsel), for defendant.

Stern, Levy & Pellegrino, L. L. P. (Joel S. Stern of counsel), for plaintiff.

OPINION OF THE COURT

CAROL R. EDMEAD, J.

Defendant Fleet Bank (Fleet) moves for an order granting it

[189 Misc.2d 21]

summary judgment dismissing plaintiff Interbank of New York's (Interbank) complaint. This case of first impression considers whether a notation "verbally authorized by your depositor" qualifies as a signature on a check.

Interbank commenced this action against Fleet to recover on four drafts in the total sum of $3,361.16, paid out by Interbank from the account of its customer, Dimitrios Tasoulis (Tasoulis).

Two of the drafts were issued by and made payable to Sprint PCS (Sprint), and two of the drafts were issued by and made payable to Bell Atlantic Mobile, Inc. (Bell).

These drafts are known commonly in the banking industry as "pre-authorized drafts" or "telechecks." These drafts are created when a consumer has agreed to pay for goods or services by allowing the subject vendor to prepare and issue a pre-authorized check drawn on the consumer's account at the consumer's designated financial institution. The consumer provides the vendor with the necessary account number and bank at which it is maintained, and the vendor then issues a check drawn on the consumer's account.

In this case, Sprint and Bell issued drafts on the account of Tasoulis to pay for telephone services. The drafts contained the typed notation "verbally authorized by your depositor." Bell and Sprint deposited the drafts in their respective accounts at Fleet.[*] The drafts were ultimately paid by Interbank.

Thereafter, Tasoulis advised Interbank that he never authorized Bell or Sprint to issue the drafts. Tasoulis executed an affidavit of forgery with respect to each draft, in which he stated that he had never authorized the drafts to be issued. Interbank seeks to recover on the forged drafts.

[189 Misc.2d 22]

It is Fleet's position that the pre-authorized checks herein should be treated like any other check, and that in accordance with the Uniform Commercial Code, a depository bank such as Fleet cannot be liable for accepting a check on which the signature of the drawer is forged, unless it knew that the signature was forged.

Interbank's position is that a pre-authorized check cannot be treated as an ordinary check and is not a negotiable instrument.

Fleet is the depository bank and collecting bank. (UCC 4-105 [a], [d].) Interbank is the drawee and payor bank. (UCC 4-105 [b].)

"First, a drawee who accepts or pays an instrument on which the signature of a drawer is forged is bound on its acceptance and cannot recover back its payment. This rule, first set forth in Price v. Neal (3 Burr. 1354 [1762]), is followed in section 3-418 of the Uniform Commercial Code and inferentially in section 3-417 (subd. [1], par. [b]) and section 4-207 (subd. [1], par. [b]) of the Uniform Commercial Code." (Mortimer Agency v Underwriters Trust Co., 73 Misc 2d 970, 973 [Civ Ct, NY County 1973]; Banco Mercantil de Sao Paulo v Nava, 120 Misc 2d 517 [Sup Ct, NY County 1983].)

A forgery is an unauthorized signature (UCC 1-201 [43]), and is "wholly inoperative as that of the person whose name is signed." (UCC 3-404 [1].)

Thus, it is Interbank, the drawee and payor bank, who is liable for the forged signature of its customer, the drawer.

"The provisions of article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code relating to check fraud have as their purpose ensuring the ready negotiability of commercial paper and advancing the important policy of assigning loss based upon the relative responsibility of the parties * * * Article 3 accomplishes these ends by establishing commercially sound rules designed to place the risk of loss attributable to fraud such as forged indorsements with the party best able to prevent them." (Getty Petroleum Corp. v American Express Travel Related Servs. Co., 90 NY2d 322, 326 [1997] [citations omitted].)

The reasons for the rule that a drawee who pays an instrument on which the signature of the drawer is forged cannot recover back the payment is stated in Comment 1 of UCC 3-418 as follows:

[189 Misc.2d 23]

"The traditional justification for the result is that the drawee is in a superior position to detect a forgery because he has the maker's signature and is expected to know and compare it; a less fictional rationalization is that it is highly desirable to end the transaction on an instrument when it is paid rather than reopen and
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1 practice notes
  • Eill v. Morck, No. 4490/10.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • October 19, 2012
    ...as to signature” within the meaning of that phrase in a bond ( see117 A.D.2d at 89–90;see also Interbank of New York v. Fleet Bank, 189 Misc.2d 20, 23–24 [Civ Ct, N.Y. County 2001] [“the unauthorized use of a stamped printed signature constitutes a forgery”].) In Dowling v. Mosey (32 AD3d 1......
1 cases
  • Eill v. Morck, No. 4490/10.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • October 19, 2012
    ...as to signature” within the meaning of that phrase in a bond ( see117 A.D.2d at 89–90;see also Interbank of New York v. Fleet Bank, 189 Misc.2d 20, 23–24 [Civ Ct, N.Y. County 2001] [“the unauthorized use of a stamped printed signature constitutes a forgery”].) In Dowling v. Mosey (32 AD3d 1......

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