Stewart v. Thornton

Decision Date12 July 1977
Docket NumberNo. 12779-PR,12779-PR
Citation568 P.2d 414,116 Ariz. 107
Parties, 22 UCC Rep.Serv. 990 Donald G. STEWART, Appellant, v. Marjorie E. THORNTON, a widow, Appellee.
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Walton, Lauinger & Friedeman by Thomas J. Lauinger, John W. Friedeman, Scottsdale, for appellant.

Behrens, MacLean & Jacques by John H. MacLean, John K. Graham, Phoenix, for appellee.

William Kanter, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for amicus curiae Housing and Urban Development.

STRUCKMEYER, Vice Chief Justice.

This is a declaratory action to determine the rights of appellant Donald G. Stewart as the holder of a promissory note. The Superior Court entered a judgment favorable to Marjorie E. Thornton, the maker, that Stewart was not a holder in due course. The Court of Appeals reversed, 27 Ariz.App. 105, 551 P.2d 95 (1976). We accepted review pursuant to 17A, A.R.S., Rules of the Supreme Court, Rule 47(b). Decision of the Court of Appeals vacated. Judgment of the Superior Court affirmed.

On May 23, 1971, Thornton signed an agreement to purchase a lot, received a deed thereto and in return executed a promissory note and mortgage on the lot in the amount of fifty-three hundred sixty-eight and 44/100 dollars ($5368.44), payable to the order of Cochise College Park, Inc. (College Park). Two days later, on May 25, 1971, Thornton rescinded the transaction. Her down payment was returned by College Park, but, on the same day, College Park assigned her note and mortgage to Stewart for a consideration of thirty-five hundred fifty dollars ($3550). Stewart received the first ten monthly payments due on the note and mortgage and only became aware of the rescission after the payments had been discontinued. The ten payments were not made by Thornton, but the record does not disclose by whom they were made.

As an affirmative defense to appellant's suit for collection of the note, Thornton set up that she had not received a property report as required by the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1701, et seq., and that her rescission of the transaction made the purchase agreement, the promissory note and the realty mortgage void by operation of law, § 1703(b) of the Act. 1

The trial court, sitting without a jury, held that Stewart was not a holder in due course 2 and that the note was subject to any defenses which Thornton could assert against College Park. Her position on appeal is that Stewart was not a holder in due course because he was charged with constructive notice of § 1703(b), supra, and that he had actual knowledge of the facts which should have alerted him to possible defenses defeating his claimed status as a holder in due course. She relies on A.R.S. § 44-2534, reading:

"A. The purchaser has notice of a claim or defense if:

2. The purchaser has notice that the obligation of any party is voidable in whole or in part, * * *." (Emphasis added)

We have previously defined "notice" under the UCC in Mecham v. United Bank of Arizona, 107 Ariz. 437, 489 P.2d 247 (1971), saying:

"As to notice of a defense or claim, it means, minimally, that from all the facts and circumstances known to him at the time in question one has reason to know a given fact exists. § 44-2208, subsec. 25, par. c A.R.S. The critical time for such notice is when the party comes into possession as a holder." 107 Ariz. at 441-442, 489 P.2d at 251-52. (Emphasis added.)

And see Kaw Valley State Bank and Trust Company v. Riddle, 219 Kan. 550, 549 P.2d 927 (1976); Jaeger & Branch, Inc. v. Pappas, 20 Utah 2d 100, 433 P.2d 605 (1967). Notice contemplates actual knowledge of a defense or of such facts that would alert a person to a possible defense. Jaeger & Branch, supra, at 110, 433 P.2d at 607.

It is sometimes said that a purchaser of a note is under no duty to ascertain from the maker the actual status of the contract arrangement. Third National Bank of Nashville v. Hardi-Gardens Supply of Illinois, Inc., 380 F.Supp. 930, 942 (M.D.Tenn.1974). This is because were there such a duty, it would impose unnecessary and perhaps crippling restrictions on the free alienation of commercial paper.

It has been held under the Uniform Commercial Code that constructive notice of a recorded instrument is not actual notice as contemplated by the UCC, National Security Fire and Casualty Company v. Mazzara, 289 Ala. 542, 268 So.2d 814, 817 (1972), nor is a filed security agreement, Chase Manhattan Bank (N.A.) v. State, 48 A.D.2d 11, 367 N.Y.S.2d 580, 583 (1975). But notice under the UCC requires some inquiry if the purchaser has actual knowledge of facts which would apprise him of possible irregularities. Eldon's Super Fresh Stores, Inc. v. Merrill Lynch, etc., 296 Minn. 130, 207 N.W.2d 282, 287-88 (1973). The protection afforded a holder in due course cannot be used to shield one who simply refuses to investigate when the facts known to him suggest an irregularity concerning the commercial paper he purchases.

By the express terms of § 1703(b), the sales agreement for the purchase of the lot must provide that a "purchaser may revoke such * * * agreement within forty-eight hours, where he has received the property report less than forty-eight hours before he signed the contract or agreement, * * *." Stewart was, of course, charged with notice of the statute. He was also charged with knowing that a purchaser who received the property report, has inspected the lot in advance of signing the sales agreement and acknowledged by his signature on the agreement that he has made such inspection and has read and understood such report, may stipulate in the agreement of purchase that the right to revoke for forty-eight hours shall not apply.

The promissory note signed by appellee, dated May 23, 1971, provided that it was delivered in payment for certain real property in College Park. Neither the note nor mortgage indicate that the purchaser received a property report and inspected the lot to be purchased in advance of their execution; neither do they show when or that a property report was received by the purchaser. Nor does the written sales agreement signed by Thornton as part of the transaction on May 23, 1971 show that she ever inspected the lot or received a property report pursuant to § 1703(b).

Here, as in Vandam Check Cashing Corp. v. David J. Askin, Jr., Inc. (New York City Civil Court, Kings County, March 7, 1972), there is no question of any actual notice of any infirmity in the instrument. But as the court said there:

" 'Good faith' means...

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    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • November 22, 2011
    ...however, Augusta Ranch cites only cases arising in contexts other than slander of title. See, e.g., Stewart v. Thornton, 116 Ariz. 107, 109–10, 568 P.2d 414, 416–17 (1977) (holder in due course); Long v. City of Glendale, 208 Ariz. 319, 325, ¶ 9, 93 P.3d 519, 525 (App.2004) (knowledge of ac......
  • Shepherd v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • March 8, 2021
    ...of good faith. The court of appeals used dictionary definitions as well as our definition of good faith from Stewart v. Thornton , 116 Ariz. 107, 110, 568 P.2d 414, 417 (1977) : "honesty in fact in the conduct or transaction concerned." Shepherd , 246 Ariz. at 477–78 ¶ 30, 441 P.3d at 996–9......
  • Ackmann v. Merchants Mortg. & Trust Corp.
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    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • May 3, 1982
    ...v. Vanotti, 42 Colo.App. 448, 599 P.2d 962 (1979). The Supreme Court of Arizona has reached the same conclusion. Stewart v. Thornton, 116 Ariz. 107, 568 P.2d 414 (1977). We believe these cases reflect the correct approach. It is not uncommon for a developer to sell a lot purchaser's note to......
  • Shepherd v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • April 30, 2019
    ...Commercial Code defines "[g]ood faith" as "honesty in fact in the conduct or transaction concerned"; see also Stewart v. Thornton , 116 Ariz. 107, 110, 568 P.2d 414, 417 (1977) (relying on the UCC’s definition of good faith). Our supreme court has further noted that good faith, in the conte......
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