Signing any blank form is asking for trouble, as a partner in a business who did just that recently found out. Her carelessness resulted in her having to go to court to put right a claim from a leasing company after a 'deceitful and pushy' salesman had filled in an order for thousands of pounds worth of office equipment the business did not want.

The woman had expressed an interest in hiring office equipment for the business but objected when it was delivered to her office before a price had been agreed. She had apparently signed blank forms, which the fraudulent salesman later filled in and submitted to a finance house. The latter subsequently terminated the agreement and claimed more than £23,000 in arrears that had built up under the credit hire agreement.

The partners were later ordered to pay almost £25,000 by a judge who rejected their plea that there had been no contract between them and the finance house. The judge found it 'extraordinary' that one of the partners, an experienced solicitor, had signed blank documents, and he accepted that the salesman had practised deceit and fraud upon her. However, he ruled that those findings made no difference to the finance house's contractual rights.

In allowing the partners' appeal, however, the Court of Appeal found that the company for which the salesman worked had in certain respects acted as agents for the finance house. The salesman had failed in his duty to inform the finance house of the partners' wish to withdraw from the deal. In those circumstances, the partners' offer to enter into the agreement was revoked before it was accepted and no contract between them and the finance house had been completed.

This case would never have arisen had the partners always taken the simple precaution of making sure that a signature is attached only to documents which have been read, understood and agreed. It is unwise ever to sign documents 'in blank', and if you are faced with a request to make any contractual agreement which is expressed in terms you do not fully understand and agree with, it is sensible to take professional advice.

For further information, please contact Roy Colaba on 0121 698 2200, email r.colaba@sydneymitchell.co.uk. or fill in our online enquiry form.

 

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