Digitally signing dotted line renders huge bill void
A DIRECTOR of a Murwillumbah-based development company that owed almost $890,000 for building materials will not have to pay a share of the bill because his electronic signature was used without his permission.
Williams Group Australia supplied the materials to IDH Modular on credit after receiving a faxed application with electronically affixed signatures of IDH's three directors in 2010.
The New South Wales Court of Appeal heard IDH's administration manager was supposed to have witnessed the signatures.
IDH operated from offices in Murwillumbah but one of its directors, Lee Anthony Crocker, usually worked from Brisbane.
The signatures had been attached to the application from the Murwillumbah office using the computerised HelloFax system.
One of Mr Crocker's co-directors had provided him with a username and password to HelloFax but he never changed his password, meaning anyone with the login details could attach his signature.
Williams Group went to the courts in an effort to get IDH to pay its $899,543.35 bill in May 2013, but by October IDH had gone into liquidation.
Two of the co-directors were ordered to pay their share of the bill they had guaranteed, but Mr Crocker successfully argued an unknown person had accessed his HelloFax account and attached his signature without his permission.
He said he had no knowledge of receiving an email detailing the application, suggesting they could have gone to his spam folder.
Williams Group appealed the decision but the court found no evidence Mr Crocker knew the application had been made in his name.
"Williams, it appears, simply assumed that the signature on the document was a genuine one (without turning its mind to how it had been placed on the document),” Justice Julie Ward found.
The appeal was dismissed with Williams Group ordered to pay Mr Crocker's legal costs.