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Court of Appeal Overturns Contract Signed 'in Blank'

Signing any blank form is asking for trouble, as a partner in a business who did just that recently found out. Her carelessness resulted in her having to go to court to put right a claim from a leasing company after a 'deceitful and pushy' salesman had filled in an order for thousands of pounds worth of office equipment the business did not want.

The woman had expressed an interest in hiring office equipment for the business but objected when it was delivered to her office before a price had been agreed. She had foolishly signed blank forms, which the fraudulent salesman later filled in and submitted to a finance house. The latter subsequently terminated the agreement and claimed more than £23,000 in arrears that had built up under the credit hire agreement.

The partners were later ordered to pay almost £25,000 by a judge who rejected their plea that there had been no contract between them and the finance house. The judge found it 'extraordinary' that one of the partners, an experienced solicitor, had signed blank documents, and he accepted that the salesman had practised deceit and fraud upon her. However, he ruled that those findings made no difference to the finance house's contractual rights.

In allowing the partners' appeal, however, the Court of Appeal found that the company for which the salesman worked had in certain respects acted as agents for the finance house. The salesman had failed in his duty to inform the finance house of the partners' wish to withdraw from the deal. In those circumstances, the partners' offer to enter into the agreement was revoked before it was accepted and no contract between them and the finance house had been completed.

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