HARRISBURG — The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that a widow is not responsible for paying off all of her late husband's loans, even though the bank insisted she sign as a guarantor for some of them.
Manufacturer’s and Trader’s Trust Company v. Kelly Justofin was originally filed in the Civil Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. The case arose out of loans made to Christopher Justofin, Kelly Justofin’s husband, in 2006. Christopher Justofin was an osteopathic doctor in West Hazleton. He died in 2013.
In April 2006, Christopher Justofin applied for a loan from Manufacturer’s and Trader’s Trust Company Bank. His wife Kelly later signed the page titled M&T Bank Quikcredit Application without reading it. The bank employee handling the loan assumed there were joint assets.
According to the judgment, Kelly Justofin was not an officer or shareholder of her husband’s corporation, didn’t get any of the loan money and she didn’t prepare a personal financial statement to include in loan documents. However, Kelly Justofin signed a guaranty for the loan on April 24, 2006.
In May 2006, $205,000 was loaned to Christopher Justofin. Kelly Justofin had gone to the loan closing with her husband but only there, at the closing, was she informed that she would have to sign the loan documents or the loan would not be completed. She also signed a mortgage on a vacant lot she owned jointly with her husband.
In May 2011, the note was amended to reflect the balance of $103,889.93. Payments continued to be made until 2013.
In April 2007, Christopher Justofin took out a personal loan for $311,000 from Manufacturer’s and Trader’s Trust Company Bank but Kelly Justofin was a guarantor.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act [ECOA] says no applicant can be discriminated against due to their marital status. If an applicant is credit-worthy, his or her spouse does not have to sign a guaranty for a loan.
Kelly Justofin proved her spouse had adequate credit, and the lower court dismissed the bank’s suit against her and required the bank to pay her attorney’s fees. On Nov. 21, 2016, the Court of Common Pleas denied the bank’s motion for reconsideration. The court of appeals upheld that ruling on June 21.
"Here, based on the trial court’s findings of fact, it is clear that Appellee was not a joint applicant on the loan made by M&T Bank to Christopher Justofin or his corporation," the court ruled.
"Additionally, the trial court found that Christopher Justofin was independently creditworthy, and that M&T Bank required Appellee to execute a guaranty of the loan solely due to her status as Christopher’s spouse. Thus, we agree with the court’s conclusion that Appellee is entitled to protection under the ECOA, and we discern no abuse of discretion."