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Law clear only guarantor's signature needed

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on a guaranty issue today that is "so well-settled" in state law that the judges had difficulty finding recent cases restating it.

Debra Sullivan argued in Grabill Cabinet Co. Inc. v. Debra C. Sullivan, No. 02A03-0908-CV-399, that because Grabill Cabinet Co. didn't also sign a personal guaranty Sullivan had with the company, the guaranty was invalid. Sullivan signed the personal guaranty while she was an employee with Kitchens, Baths, & More, which guaranteed any repayment of debt KBM may have with the cabinet company. When KBM didn't pay on a balance, Grabill tried to collect from Sullivan. Sullivan had since left the company but didn't send Grabill any notice of termination of her personal guaranty.

The trial court granted summary judgment for Sullivan on the issue of enforceability of the guaranty.

The appellate judges disagreed with Sullivan's argument because the Indiana Statute of Frauds requires only that the party against whom the action is brought has to sign the written guaranty.

"Indeed, this seems to be one of those propositions so well-settled in Indiana law that it is difficult to find recent cases restating it," wrote Judge Cale Bradford. "Our Statute of Frauds has existed in substantially the same form, at least as it pertains to guaranties, for well over a century."

There is somewhat of a conflict between Indiana caselaw and the Statute of Frauds, and Sullivan relied on a ruling that required three parties to "execute" a guaranty for it to be valid. But signing a written guaranty isn't necessary for it to be executed and the Statute of Frauds has made it clear only the guarantor's signature is required.

The three Court of Appeals opinions that arguably define a signing requirement onto guaranties conflict with the plain language of the Statute of Frauds and Indiana Supreme Court precedent, the judge continued.

"If the Indiana Supreme Court wishes to graft new signing requirements onto guaranties beyond those mentioned in the Statute of Frauds, it may do so. As yet, however, the Court has not, and we are absolutely bound by its decisions in this regard," Judge Bradford wrote.

The appellate court reversed summary judgment for Sullivan and remanded for entry of summary judgment for Grabill on the issue and for calculation of the company's award.

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