Who do you think you're signing for?

  • Who do you think you're signing for?

A case just handed down by the Appellate Court affirmed a trial court finding that a woman, purportedly acting as secretary/treasurer of a corporation when she signed a promissory note and a lease on behalf of the corporation, lacked authority to do so because there was no corporate authority for her signing either document. As a result, both the lease and the note were held to be void. Because she failed to obtain authorization from the board of directors, the lease and promissory note were set aside in their entirety, declared void, and she was charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person (she held a Power of Attorney for her father, also an officer of the corporation) and theft by deception.

The lesson is that it is absolutely essential, when acting as an officer or agent of a corporation, to get written authority for any actions outside of the normal day-to-day operation of the business.

  • Read before you sign.

In another case handed down in March, a woman was injured when she caught her foot on a rope exercise ladder hidden behind a tennis court where she was playing tennis as a member. The court held that she had a duty to read the release that she signed as part of the membership agreement, which included a release related to equipment. The court held that the exercise ladder was part of the equipment covered by the release, that the injury was foreseeable and therefore granted summary judgment in favor of the sports facility, ending the litigation. The Appellate Court affirmed.

The lesson here is to make sure that you carefully read the documents you sign, making sure that you agree with all of their terms. I know, I know, that is a hassle, but it is a hassle that could avoid a much larger hassle down the road.

  • Whose HIPPA rights are these?

By now almost everyone has heard of HIPPA, which requires privacy regarding medical records, and specific authorization for the release of those records, not only authorizing the release of the records but to whom they may be shown. It is worth noting that individual patients do not have an independent cause of action for violation of HIPPA. It is up to the Department of Health and Human Services to bring an action for wrongful disclosure or receipt of this health information. If you have a problem with a HIPPA violation, you can contact the privacy officer in the office or hospital where the violation occurred. HIPPA requires that each office have such a privacy officer. This may not solve the problem, but it is possible that this may allow damage to be minimized.