Separate And Distinct Signature Required To Enforce Personal Guaranty From Corporate Officer or Director

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division again reminded us that a personal guaranty cannot be enforced unless the person against whom it is being enforced signed the guaranty. This may sound like an obvious reminder, but the issue comes up from time to time, particularly where a contract is entered into with a corporation and purports to contain a personal guaranty on behalf of an individual officer of the corporation. Unless the officer signs the contract in his or her personal capacity — i.e., not just on behalf of the corporation as an officer of the corporation — the guaranty will not be enforceable. I have blogged about this before.

In Herz v. 141 Bloomfield Avenue Corporation, plaintiffs leased property to the corporate defendant. The lease contained a provision whereby the individual defendant, the corporate defendant's president, agreed to be personally liable for all "obligations, rents (past and future), and damages" due under the lease. The individual defendant signed the lease, but did so only on behalf of the corporate defendant — the lease contained a signature block for the corporate defendant, but did not contain a separate signature block for the individual defendant.

After default, plaintiffs sued both the corporate defendant and the individual defendant. The individual defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that he only signed the lease on behalf of the corporation and therefore could not be held liable under the personal guaranty. The trial court agreed and plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed.

 

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Frau Blucher a/k/a The Real Housekeepers of Germany

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

Young Frankenstein is a classic movie and one of my all time favorites. One of the running jokes in the movie involves Frau Blucher, the housekeeper at Dr. Frankenstein's castle. Every time her name is uttered, horses neigh and react violently, even when her name is uttered in part's of the castle where there are no horses around. Check out the clip below for a sample:    

 

Other than the fact that Frau Blucher is a German housekeeper, there is almost no connection to the recent Appellate Division decision in Von Wilke v. Pastorius Home Association, Inc. But I really like Young Frankenstein so I thought that was connection enough to reference it here.

 

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In Life, There Are No [Personal] Guarantees (Especially When They Are Buried In An Ambiguous Provision Of A Contract)

by: Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

In a recent unpublished decision, the Law Division refused to enforce a purported personal guarantee in a commercial contract. Individuals and entities that include such guarantees in their contracts with customers should read the decision (or just continue reading below).

In Century Star Fuel Corp. v. Jaffe, defendant entered into a contract with plaintiff whereby defendant obtained a line of credit from plaintiff that defendant could use to purchase heating oil from plaintiff. The one-page contract, which was prepared by plaintiff, contained a single signature line for defendant’s president to sign on behalf of defendant. It also contained what the court described as “boilerplate language” providing the following: “Applicant . . . agrees and acknowledges that the person who signs this Application has the Authority to do so; and Personally Guarantees all present and future extensions of credit.” Defendant was identified as the “Applicant” in the signature line. Plaintiff alleged that this clause was unambiguous and rendered defendant’s president personally liable for defendant’s debts. Defendant disagreed and argued that the clause was unenforceable because its president never intended to be personally bound. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court sided with defendant.

 

Continue reading “In Life, There Are No [Personal] Guarantees (Especially When They Are Buried In An Ambiguous Provision Of A Contract)”