Wachovia Bank of Georgia has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider a recent ruling that upheld a verdict finding it negligent in handling a power-of-attorney account.
The state high court this month had rejected the bank's appeal of a lower appellate court's decision, and the unit of Wachovia Corp. in Winston-Salem, N.C., asked last week that the court reconsider.
Though motions for reconsideration are considered last-ditch efforts and are rarely granted, Wachovia associate general counsel Michael Ray said he is optimistic because this request includes strong support from other bankers who say the ruling is impractical. "It's not over yet, and we are hopeful that the supreme court will reconsider," Mr. Ray said.
The dispute began in 1995 when a Wachovia customer, Bernard S. Bailey Jr., cashed in a $66,722 certificate of deposit that was in his name and gave it to a friend, who disappeared with the money. The customer's sister, Frances B. Reynolds, sued Wachovia, arguing that it had been negligent in giving the money to her brother, who she said is mentally unfit. Ms. Reynolds had bought the CD for him and had power of attorney over the account.
Wachovia argued that it was unaware of Mr. Bailey's mental state and that under the power-of-attorney agreement it was obliged to give him the money. A lower court ruled for Ms. Reynolds early last year and ordered Wachovia to repay the money, then in April an appeals court upheld this decision.
The appeals court ruling caught the attention of the Georgia Bankers Association, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief last summer with the state supreme court on behalf of Wachovia.
The "decision, in essence, forces banks to double-check every depositor before adhering to a depositor's demand. This is an unrealistic and absurd result," the brief argued.
Since the ruling, Wachovia and other Georgia banks have become more cautious about how they handle power-of-attorney accounts.
In some cases they have limited the number they accept. Mr. Ray said, however, that Wachovia is waiting for a final supreme court's decision before making any permanent change.
Related Content Online: