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COA: Bank could charge back account after check is lost

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A man who withdrew nearly all of the money in a bank account is personally liable to pay back that money to the bank, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The bank had lost a check deposited into the account and the account holder was unable to help the bank identify the check writer to obtain a replacement check.

James R. Sapp had multiple bank accounts with Flagstar Bank and other banks in and out of state. He deposited $125,000 in late August 2005 into his account referred to as SF7 that was the account of an LLC he had formed. The check was a cashier’s check made up of various amounts from other banks paid to some of Sapps’ businesses as well as some unidentified amount of cash. Almost all of the money was gone from the account 16 days after the deposit; Sapp had deposited $100,000 from the SF7 account into an account to which only he had access.

In November 2005, Flagstar debited $125,000 from the SF7 account and was only able to recover nearly $2,000. This was after the bank pressed Sapp to help it identify who issued the previous check in order to obtain a replacement. In 2007, the bank sued Sapp for breach of contract, theft, conversion and unjust enrichment. The trial court ruled in favor of the bank on its claims and ordered Sapp to pay attorney fees.

The transaction was not final, as Sapp had argued, because the account agreement states that the account holder agrees to be liable for any account shortage resulting from a charge or an overdraft. He chose to withdraw funds from the SF7 account while the provision credit was in place, the COA ruled in James R. Sapp v. Flagstar Bank, FSB, 49A02-1311-PL-935.

“Had Sapp not written any of those checks, the account would still have held the $125,000 provision credit and would not have been overdrawn when that credit was revoked,” Judge John Baker wrote in finding Sapp liable for the shortage in the account.

Sapp argued the bank waited too long to notify him the check had been lost and that the transaction had been “finalized” based on language in the account agreement. The agreement allowed Sapp to withdraw the funds based on the provision credit, but it also put him on notice that he would be liable for any checks deposited in the account that are unpaid.

The judges upheld the order that Sapp pay the bank’s attorney fees, again citing the account agreement. They also remanded for the trial court to decide the amount of appellate attorney fees to which Flagstar may be entitled.
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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