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Stowell v. Cloquet Co-op Credit Union

Supreme Court of Minnesota
557 N.W.2d 567 (1997)


Cloquet Credit Union (Credit Union) (defendant) operated an automatic check-processing system used throughout the banking industry. Credit Union sent to its customers monthly bank statements listing each account transaction, relying on customer notification to identify potential fraud or error. Randall Stowell (plaintiff) opened an account with Credit Union, at which time he signed a Draft Withdrawal Agreement (Agreement) informing him that, if he did not object within 20 days from the date of mailing, the statement would be considered accurate and final. A few years later, Robert Nelson moved into a home near Stowell. Over a one-year period, Nelson stole approximately 50 checks from Stowell’s mailbox, forged Stowell’s signature, and cashed the checks. Nelson also took Stowell’s monthly account statements. Stowell repeatedly contacted Credit Union, which sent duplicate statements that Stowell never received. Stowell eventually discovered the forgeries when he received notification that a check written from his account had bounced. Stowell and Credit Union reviewed the statements and found that Nelson had forged checks totaling more than $22,000. Stowell brought suit against Credit Union, demanding reimbursement. A jury found in favor of Stowell, and the court of appeals affirmed. Credit Union appealed.

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