First American Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, No. 16-1122 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Attorney Goodson received an email from “Fumiko Anderson,” stating that she wanted to hire Goodson to recover money that she was owed in a divorce. Fumiko later stated that her ex-husband had agreed to settle and would mail a check to cover Goodson’s fee plus the settlement amount. The check was drawn on the First American account of an Illinois manufacturer. Goodson deposited the $486,750.33 check in his Citizens Bank client trust account. Fumiko told Goodson she needed the money immediately. Goodson directed the bank to transfer it to a Japanese entity that he believed to be Fumiko. It actually was an Internet-based fraudulent scheme: the “Fumiko Bandit.” When the fraud was discovered First American reimbursed its depositor and sought recovery from Citizens Bank, Goodson, and the Federal Reserve Bank. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment for the defendants, rejecting a breach of warranty argument. First American had received a “truncated” electronic image from the Federal Reserve but could have demanded a “substitute check” or could have refused to honor the check. First American was the victim of a mistake, but Illinois law provides no remedy for such a victim against “a person who took the instrument in good faith and for value.” The lawyer and the banks reasonably believed that they were engaged in the commonplace activity of forwarding a check; they did not fall below “reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing.” There was no “negligent spoliation of evidence” in Citizens Bank’s destruction of the original paper check. Goodson owed no professional duty to First American.