Last week I discussed a case in which a Missouri appellate court upheld personal guarantees when the purported guarantors had signed a promissory note under the words “Personal Guaranty and Acceptance of Terms.” In that same case, the court held that a “late fee” was an unenforceable penalty, rather than an enforceable liquidated damages clause.
I’ve discussed liquidated damages provisions in these virtual pages before. In Liquidated Damages Provisions Can Be Your Friend, But Don’t Overreach, I talk about the difference between enforceable liquidated damages provisions and unenforceable penalties. So many people followed Google to that piece looking for sample contract language that I later posted a Liquidated Damages Clause Example.
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There are a surprising number of cases dealing with whether people who purportedly signed a personal guarantee actually agreed to personally guarantee a contract.
Many of the issues I’ve seen arise when someone signs at the bottom of a contract as “guarantor” rather than signing a separate guarantee document. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it can cause issues. For example, I discussed a case in 2012 involving a corporate officer who signed a credit application that contained guarantee language. The officer signed the document only once, the signature did not indicate whether he was signing in his individual capacity or on behalf of the company, there was only one signature line, and the guarantee language did not clearly evidence that a personal guarantee was intended. The court held that the officer had not agreed to personally guarantee the company’s obligations and stated:
When considering whether a signatory to a contract intended to sign the agreement in his corporate or individual capacity, the determinative question is whether, in view of the form of the signature to the agreement, the language of the so called guaranty clause is sufficient to manifest a clear and explicit intent by [the signatory] to assume a personal guaranty contract. … Accordingly, our courts have adopted the policy that in order to hold a corporate officer individually liable in signing a contract of guaranty … the officer should sign the contract twice[,] once in his corporate capacity and once in his individual capacity…. By signing the contract twice, the officer executing the contract for his corporation clearly manifests his intent to assume personal liability. [citations and internal quotation marks omitted]
Drafters should clearly indicate that persons signing guarantees in contracts are signing in their individual capacities and they should include a separate signature block for them the sign in that capacity. [click to continue…]
When someone takes on a contractual obligation to provide insurance, that duty can preclude them from looking to the other party for damages covered by the required insurance.
In Storey v. RGIS Inventory Specialists, Kenneth Storey leased property to RGIS. The property was destroyed by a fire allegedly caused by one of RGIS’s employees. The lease required RGIS to repair damages to the leased premises caused by the negligence or intentional acts or omissions of RGIS, its agents, servants, or employees. Storey sued RGIS for damages resulting from the fire. The court dismissed Storey’s case on a summary judgment motion.
Why wasn’t Storey able to recover from RGIS? Because provisions in the lease agreement–including Storey’s obligation to provide insurance–showed that the parties intended to exempt RGIS from liability for loss from fire. The lease required Storey to procure insurance for the benefit of both parties in an amount equal to the replacement costs of the leased premises. In addition, the lease required RGIS to surrender the premises in good order “ … damage by fire … excepted,” which evidenced the parties’ intent to exempt RGIS from liability from loss from fire.
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