Justin M. English, Esq. recently obtained a bench trial verdict in favor of a GH&C client (the “Client”) following a trial in Superior Court in Middlesex County, New Jersey. The Client was a major New Jersey provider of senior housing and supportive services who was sued by Robert J. Triffin (“Triffin”), a litigant who has filed thousands of lawsuits arising out of the practice of buying dishonored checks, becoming a holder in due course, and then commencing litigation in order to collect the proceeds of the check. In fact, since 2004 Triffin has filed more than 15,000 lawsuits as an assignee of dishonored checks in New Jersey courts alone. See Triffin v. Am. Intern. Grp., Inc., 372 N.J. Super. 517, 521 n.2 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 2004) (At oral argument on appeal, Triffin indicated having filed over 15,000 lawsuits as assignee of dishonored checks).
In this case, Triffin purchased Friendly Check Cashing’s rights in various dishonored checks. One such dishonored check was a draft drawn by the Client and paid to the Client’s employee. The employee then did two things with the check. First, she electronically deposited the check with her bank via her bank’s mobile app on her smart phone. And second, she took the same check and physically cashed it at Friendly Check Cashing. Because Friendly Check Cashing did not know the draft was already negotiated via the employee’s mobile banking app, Friendly Check Cashing paid consideration for a check which turned out to be dishonored. Triffin then purchased the rights to the dishonored check and sued the Client and the employee as the holder in due course of the check claiming that the Client should be liable to him for damages related to the check’s proceeds, as well as additional statutory damages.
Triffin claimed that the Client had been unjustly enriched and converted the funds related to the check. The judge heard testimony from various witnesses for both parties. One of the Client’s witnesses explained that the Client had fully satisfied its obligation in tendering payment to its employee, and its account was debited for the payment in full related to the electronic deposit via the mobile app. In other words, the funds were fully paid out from the Client’s bank account so the Client received no financial benefit related to the dishonored check.
During closing arguments, trial counsel, Justin M. English, cited the applicable New Jersey statute, which unequivocally discharged the Client, as drawer of a draft, once the draft is accepted by a bank, which happened in this case. Specifically, N.J.S.A. § 12A:3-414(c) provides that “[i]f a draft is accepted by a bank, the drawer is discharged, regardless of when or by whom acceptance was obtained.” See N.J.S.A. § 12A:3-414(c). The Court agreed and found that the Client could not be held liable for any of the damages that Triffin claimed because the draft had been accepted by the Client’s bank. Triffin’s complaint was dismissed in its entirety as to the Client. Additionally, the time period for Triffin to file an appeal has expired so the decision at trial will not be appealed.
GH&C welcomes further discussion on cases involving litigation related to dishonored bank drafts and other commercial litigation matters.
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