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John signs a contract with Jane to buy a car, but he forges Joe's signature. Obviously, Joe isn't bound to the contract (at least, if he can prove he didn't sign it). Is John bound by it?

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  • What's the buyer's name on the contract? John? Joe? Bob?
    – Greendrake
    Jul 29 at 7:41
  • who is Joe to the transaction?
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 29 at 20:21

3 Answers 3

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The signature is a formality indicating the existence of an agreement between two parties. There does exist an agreement between John and Jane, though John is poses as another person (for no obvious reason). Using a different name in an agreement does not render the agreement invalid, it simply complicates the question of enforcement if John wants to get out of the contract and claims that he never agreed to the transaction. Joe can proffer evidence (such as Jane's testimony) proving that he did not agree to the transaction. Jane can likewise proffer evidence proving that Joe did agree to the transaction. If the court concludes that Joe most likely did agree to the sale, it will conclude that he is bound by the contract, forged signature and assumed identity notwithstanding.

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  • I think you may have mixed up John and Joe in some places.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 29 at 5:57
  • And if Joe argues that the point of forging John's signature was fraud, and he never intended to be bound by the contract?
    – nick012000
    Jul 29 at 9:14
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It depends on the circumstances

It’s possible for John, Joe, neither or both to be bound to the contract depending on the relationships, history, intention, who is seeking enforcement, and other circumstances.

To give just one example, if John and Joe are business partners then the act (wrongful of otherwise) of one of them binds all of them. In that case, if Jane seeks enforcement she can seek them from either or both of John and Joe.

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No the actual signer of a forged document is not bound by the forged signature. However, the forger is probably liable for damages from the forgery, as well as guilty of committing forgery, a crime that could be prosecuted.

Typically, if someone gets caught forging a document, that person is considered criminal and the transaction will cease. If it has already gone through, the criminal is going to be liable for actions prompted by such falsehoods.

Intent to defraud means that the person had no intention to keep legitimate his/her signatures, therefore the contract will typically be cancelled.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/forgery

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    – Community Bot
    Jul 29 at 7:19
  • This is quite opposite to what I have been told. I learned that signing the contract makes the signer bound by the contract. If they signed with a false name to defraud the other party, that's fraud. But if they fulfil the terms of the contract, it's fine. Suppose a person who rents an apartment under a false name to be there with his lover, so that their spouse doesn't find out. Paying the rent all the time, causing no trouble. They are bound by the rental contract.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 29 at 10:58
  • Yea I could see how that would be true. Is that forgery though? It's not intent to defraud.
    – user46066
    Jul 29 at 11:03
  • If I sign as "Mickey Mouse", it's not a forgery of a document signed by Mickey Mouse, but a genuine document signed by me, binding me to the contract because I signed it even when my name isn't Mickey Mouse (it isn't).
    – gnasher729
    Jul 29 at 11:44

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