Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
A party who signs a written instrument, or who places his mark or allows his mark to be placed thereon, is presumed to know its contents, and he cannot avoid the obligations which may be imposed on him by that instrument merely upon a showing that he had not read it, or that he had not had it read and explained to him, or that he did not understand its provisions.
Jeffery Avie, who was in the Army, went to the plaintiff loan company to borrow $250.00 and was informed that since he was in the Army he would have to secure an endorser on his note. Avie left and returned later with his father-in-law, Arthur Skinner. The loan company's agent testified that he told Skinner that he would be obligated to pay the debt if his son-in-law did not; Skinner, who was illiterate and French-speaking, claimed he was told merely that he was to see that payments were made from an allotment check that he received from his son-in-law's pay. After five monthly payments were made by Skinner, Avie stopped his allotment check and Skinner ceased making payments on the note. Plaintiff instituted the present suit. After trial on the merits, the district judge sustained Skinner's defense that he was illiterate and that, although he authorized his X mark to be placed on the note, in doing so he did not intend to obligate himself as an endorser. Judgment accordingly was rendered rejecting plaintiff's demands. The plaintiff has appealed, arguing that Skinner’s ignorance of the consequences of his endorsement was not ground for avoiding liability.
Under the circumstances, could Skinner be held liable for the promissory note he signed, notwithstanding his illiteracy?
In reversing the judgment, the court held that the evidence did not establish mistakes of fact and law that would exonerate the endorser. The court noted the endorser did not allege fraud, and explained that the endorser should have seen to it that the note was read to him so he would not misapprehend the nature of his undertaking. The court held that even an illiterate who signed a note without inquiring into its meaning was bound by his signature.