As part of the check collection process governed by Article 4 of the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”), the “midnight deadline” rule of § 4-302 requires that a payor bank pay or return an item, or send notice of its dishonor, before midnight of the next banking day following the banking day on which the bank receives the item. The rule imposes strict liability on a payor bank that fails to meet the midnight deadline requirement. But what if something happens to the payee while the check is being dishonored as part of the collection process? Who has standing to sue the payor bank to enforce the midnight deadline rule?
That was the unusual question decided by the Virginia Supreme Court in Stahl v. Stitt, ___ Va. ___, 869 S.E.2d 55 (2022). In that case, Ivory Markus had checking accounts at Branch Banking and Trust Company (“BB&T”) and MCNB Bank and Trust Company (“MCNB”). Markus’s niece, Sheree Stahl, was designated as the payable-on-death (“POD”) beneficiary on the BB&T account. On March 15, 2016, Stahl made an electronic request for a check transferring the $245,271.25 balance of the MCNB account to the BB&T account. On March 18, MCNB’s online banking system issued a check in that amount for mail-in deposit into the BB&T account. A BB&T branch received the check on March 21, and BB&T provisionally credited Markus’s account on that day. On March 22, the check was electronically presented to MCNB for payment. MCNB decided to dishonor the check and return it to BB&T but failed to do so until March 25, after MCNB’s midnight deadline. Markus died intestate on March 26.Read More