On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellant, Corbin & Harty.
For the respondent, Weinberger & Weinberger.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HETFIELD, J. This appeal brings up for review a judgment of the Supreme Court, Passaic Circuit, based upon a verdict of the jury directed by the court in favor of the plaintiff, who was a depositor in the defendant bank.
The facts, as presented by the record, show that the plaintiff was induced by one Joseph Marczinko, who was the pastor, as well as the treasurer, of a religious corporation known as St. Stephens Roman Catholic Magyar Church of Passaic, New Jersey, to loan that institution the sum of $4,000, and on February 21st, 1928, drew his check for that amount, payable at the defendant bank, to the order of "St. Stephens Roman Catholic Magyar Church of Passaic, New Jersey," and in return, received a bond and mortgage executed in the name of the church, which purported to cover the church property. The check was presented and cashed at the bank on February 23d, 1928, by the treasurer-priest, and was endorsed "Rev. Joseph Marczinko, Treas. of St. Stephens Rom. Cath. Magyar Church." There is no evidence to indicate that the church corporation received any benefit from
the proceeds of the check, and there was testimony to the effect that the Court of Chancery had decreed the mortgage to be a fraud. This suit was instituted on the grounds that the bank violated the contractual relationship between it and the plaintiff, by cashing the check for a person other than the payee, and upon an unauthorized and improper endorsement.
The only question involved on the present appeal is whether or not the bank was legally authorized to cash a check which was made payable to a corporation upon the sole endorsement of its treasurer.
There is no suggestion in the record that the treasurer of the church corporation had any express authority to endorse and cash checks made payable to the church, and no such power is given under the General Religious Society act of 1875, by virtue of which the church received its charter. There was proof to show that the church had an account with the defendant bank, and by reason thereof, had filed with it a signature card which indicated that three signatures were required to withdraw funds of the church corporation from the bank.
The defendant contends that the treasurer of a corporation has, by virtue of his office, in the absence of any by-law or resolution limiting his powers, authority to cash checks made payable to the order of the corporation. This proposition is legally unsound. The Negotiable Instruments act provides that "where a signature is forged or made without the authority of the person whose signature it purports to be" it is wholly inoperative, and no rights can be obtained thereunder. 3 Comp. Stat. (1910), p. 3738, § 23. Whether an officer, employe or other agent of a corporation has authority to endorse and cash checks made payable to the corporation is solely dependent upon the well-established rules of agency; and section 19 of the same act provides that "the signature of any party may be made by a duly authorized agent; no particular form of appointment is necessary for this purpose; and the authority of the agent may be established as in other cases of agency." Such an authorization may be conferred
by writing or parol, and may be inferred from circumstances, or implied from the acquiescence of the corporation or its managers in the general course of business. Crossley v. St. Philip Neri, 74 N.J.L. 653; Jackson Paper Manufacturing ...