Defense Verdict in Contract Case Involving Contested “Cut and Paste” Signature

David F. Hassett and Sarah B. Christie obtained a defense verdict after a 7-day trial in Essex Superior Court in an action arising from a construction site accident and a claim for contractual indemnity by a general contractor against a subcontractor. The plaintiff, an employee of the subcontractor, claimed injuries after a fall from staging at a construction site. The plaintiff brought an action against the general contractor who then named our client, the subcontractor, as a third-party defendant. The Third-Party Complaint filed against the subcontractor included a claim for contractual indemnity based on an unsigned copy of an AIA Standard Form Agreement which was attached to the pleading. For approximately three years, the general contractor produced only an unsigned copy of this Standard Form Agreement and pursued its claim for contractual indemnity against the subcontractor based on this unsigned document. After being served with a Motion for Summary Judgment by the subcontractor, however, the general contractor inexplicably produced a photocopy of a purportedly executed version of the contract, which the general contractor later maintained was found in his office. Shortly thereafter, the general contractor settled the plaintiff’s injury claims against it for $600,000 and sought recovery of the entire $600,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs, from the third-party defendant subcontractor. At trial, the parties called competing handwriting experts / forensic document examiners to address the issues surrounding the validity of the signed contract. The general contractor’s expert testified that the questioned document contained the subcontractor’s signature. The subcontractor’s expert testified that while the signature may indeed have been that of the subcontractor, microscopic examination of the document revealed that the signature had been transferred from another document and “cut and pasted” onto the contract. The jury deliberated over two days, returning with a defense verdict in favor of the third-party defendant subcontractor and finding that there was no valid written indemnity agreement.

Other Cases / Wins: Construction Litigation