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Triffin v. American Airlines, Inc.

A-1442-03T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CHECKS; ASSIGNMENTS—A provision in a contract between the assignor of a dishonored check and its assignee that purports to make a photocopy of the agreement admissible in court does not override evidentiary requirements in the Rules of Evidence.

Under case law, the assignee of a holder in due course’s rights has the burden to prove that its assignment under the rights of a dishonored check is valid. Here, such an assignee presented the “original dishonored check and a photocopy of the assignment agreement, in which the signature was also photocopied.” The assignee provided no explanation as to the absence of the original assignment agreement, but did present a canceled check he purported was used to pay for the assignment. The lower court dismissed the assignee’s suit to recover on the dishonored check because even though its assignor was a holder in due course, the assignee had failed to prove that it had a valid assignment. On appeal, the assignee argued that the copy of the assignment agreement was admissible based upon specific language within the assignment agreement. That language said that the assignor agreed “that this assignment agreement shall be deemed by a Court of law as binding upon [the assignor] so long as this assignment agreement sets forth on its face any of the following: the original, a copy, or a facsimile signature, or anyone who purports to be authorized by [the assignor] to enter into his assignment agreement on [assignor’s] behalf.” The lower court, with the Appellate Division’s approval on appeal, held that the cited clause “was bargained for between the buyer and the seller, not the maker. Therefore the maker should not be held to a clause that that maker was not a party to or beneficiary of the agreement.” The Appellate Division added that even though in a small claims matter, such as the one before the lower court, the “rules of evidence may be relaxed to admit relevant and trustworthy evidence in the interest of justice,” the existence of a valid assignment was a critical fact and “critical facts must be proven and not merely assumed.”

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