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Signature Placement Law (Rules)

Signature placement on a document rules:

The Supreme Court has held that when a statute dictates that a document has to be subscribed, the signature should be at the end of the document, but "it is not essential that the signatures should be placed at the end of the deed or other instrument, where the law requires signing only." Devereux v. McMahon, 108 N.C. 134, 140-41, 12 S.E. 902, 904 (1891) ; see also Peace v. Edwards, 170 N.C. 64, 86 S.E. 807 (1915).

The signature, it is obvious, is most regularly and properly placed at the foot or end of the instrument signed; but it is decided in many cases that although the signature be in the middle or beginning of the instrument, it is as binding as if at the foot; although, if not signed regularly at the foot, there is always a question whether the party meant to be bound by it as it stood, or whether it was left so unsigned because he refused to complete it. Love v. Harris, 156 N.C. 88, 91, 72 S.E. 150, 151 (1911).

In Routh v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 108 N.C. App. 268, 423 S.E.2d 791 (1992) the plaintiff terminated his dealership agreement with the defendant Snap-On Tools.

As part of the termination, the defendant presented to the plaintiff a document entitled "Termination Agreement." Routh, 108 N.C. App. at 269, 423 S.E.2d at 793.

This agreement contained a printed provision binding the plaintiff to pay the difference between any amount the plaintiff owed the defendant, less any credit the plaintiff received from the defendant by turning in unused inventory.

The parties wrote the terms of the plaintiff's repayment plan on the back of the document, and the plaintiff signed his name beneath this recitation of terms.

Another printed provision in the document bound the parties to arbitration.

The printed signature line at the bottom of the document contained the signature of one of the defendant's representatives but not the signature of the plaintiff.

In reviewing the trial court's determination that there was no meeting of the minds as to the arbitration agreement in the printed document, we observed that when an "agreement is ambiguous, interpretation of the contract is a question for the fact-finder to resolve, and parol or extrinsic evidence is admissible to explain or qualify the written instrument." Id. at 273, 423 S.E.2d at 795.

Because "plaintiff signed below only the added language . . . and not on the applicable signature line, an ambiguity results as to whether plaintiff agreed to all the terms contained in the Termination Agreement or merely those terms in the added sentence immediately preceding his signature." Id.

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