Doctrine of Idem Sonans
The doctrine of idem sonans, rarely invoked in Pennsylvania jurisprudence, was thoroughly reviewed and explained by the trial court in In re: Property of Moskowitz, 31 Pa. D & C 3d 623 (1981).
Simply, the doctrine holds the validity of a legal document is not affected by a misspelling where "although spelled differently, the attentive ear finds difficulty in distinguishing the two names when pronounced." Id. at 628, n. 4.
Some courts have applied the principle of idem sonans "where the duty devolves upon the eye, instead of the ear, to distinguish the names." Id.
The doctrine has been extended to clerical errors other than those involving exact sound-alike homonyms or look-alike words.
So long as the misspelling is adequate to identify the person whose name is in question and does not cause a litigant prejudice, the doctrine of idem sonans will be applied to uphold the validity of a legal document that contains a misspelled name. Id.
Accordingly, "Crittenden & Smith" will suffice for "Crittenden Smith" in a tax sale notice, and "E.M. Berthre" will suffice for "E.M. Bertha" in a confessed judgment. Id. at 629.
State v. Wilson, 135 N.C. App. 504, 521 S.E.2d 263 (N. C. App. Ct. 1999) (name in criminal indictment sufficient under the doctrine of idem sonans where defendant not prejudiced by the misspelling);
Reyes v. State 3 S.W.3d 623, 626 (Tex.App.-Houston [1 Dist.] 1999) (evidence is sufficient if the defendant was not surprised or prejudiced by the variance);
Purifoy v. State, 307 Ark. 482, 822 S.W.2d 374 (Ark. 1991)(a variance in the spelling of a name is not fatal in cases where the inaccuracy is not misleading);
Orr v. Byers, 198 Cal. App. 3d 666, 244 Cal.Rptr. 13 (Cal. Ct. App. 1988) (absolute accuracy in spelling names is where a variance must be such as has misled the opposite party to his prejudice.);
Cox v. Cox, 490 So. 2d 1051, 1052 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1986) (a minor misspelling is not a sufficient basis for invalidating notice unless prejudice is shown);
Corporate Financers v. Voyageur Trading Co., 519 N.W.2d 238, 243 (Minn. Ct. App. 1994) (absent showing of prejudice from a misspelling, idem sonans prevails).
This Court agreed with the trial court's disquisition on, and application of, the doctrine of idem sonans.
The Court summarized the doctrine as follows:
We agree that absolute accuracy in spelling of names in notices published pursuant to Section 602 is not required when:
(1) the name, as misspelled, is essentially the same as the name correctly spelled;
(2) the misspelled name adequately identifies the owner and;
(3) the party is not prejudiced by the misspelling. In re: Moskowitz, 447 A.2d at 1115.