On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellants, Feder & Rinzler (Joseph A. Feder and Jack Rinzler).
For the respondent, Osborne, Cornish & Scheck (Ervin S. Fulop).
The opinion of the court was delivered by
BODINE, J. The defendant, a national banking corporation engaged in business in the City of Passaic, and Edward H. Roden, manager of its credit department, appeal from a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
On October 7th, 1938, the plaintiff wrote to the defendant,
as follows: "Any information you can give us concerning the moral and financial responsibility of O. M. Hanson will be greatly appreciated, and of course held in strict confidence."
The bank replied October 8th, 1938, as follows (italics ours): "Olive Mae Hanson, proprietor of the Broadway Wine & Liquor Shop, the subject of your recent inquiry, has carried an account with us since December, 1933, balances this year averaging in a moderate three figure amount, and we have extended accommodation up to low four figure amounts, with that amount outstanding to-day. Our experience with the account has been satisfactory and checkings which we have made in the trade indicate that she is sold in amounts up to $2,300 on regular terms, with payments running from prompt to thirty days slow, although the account was generally classified as satisfactory. Mrs. Hanson's financial statement does not show a large worth but we have been favorably impressed with her and her husband. They operate under light expense and, we believe, have made some progress during the past year, having paid in full a chattel mortgage, which was formerly on the store, during the early part of 1938. They give close attention to the business and cater to a good class of trade. Yours very truly, Edward H. Roden, Manager, Credit Department." And in red ink at the foot of the letter appeared the following: "Confidential information which is furnished at your request and without any responsibility on the part of the bank or its officers."
The plaintiff's credit manager had also previously written Dun & Bradstreet and had received from them a report concerning the subject of the inquiry.
The report shows that she was 32 years of age, had previously been employed as a secretary and that her husband assisted in the store and had been discharged in bankruptcy in 1937. The report also showed that a chattel mortgage given in 1937 was canceled January 1st, 1938.
The statement shows that as of May 16th, 1938, cash in bank was $91, accounts receivable $422, merchandise nearly $8,000, fixtures and equipment $900, and a 1938 truck valued at $705, and an equity in a 1938 Oldsmobile of about $800; ...