Wells Fargo Not Winning Many Fans By Refusing To Honor $10K Owed To Kidney Patient

Back in 1982, a man purchased $11,800 in cashier’s checks from Central Fidelity Bank in Virginia and put them into a safe deposit box. The idea was that this would be his rainy-day/emergency fund. Apparently, he didn’t need this money for three decades, as he only recently attempted to deposit the checks into his account. Problem is, Wells Fargo — which now owns Wachovia, which had previously acquired Central Fidelity — claimed it had no record of these checks and refused to honor them, even after a court ordered it to.

After Wells said it wouldn’t honor the checks, the 73-year-old with stage-four kidney disease was able to track down one check for $1,800 through the Virginia Department of Treasury, which tracks unclaimed checks in that state. The agency told the man that it had returned the remaining checks to Central Fidelity in 1987.

The man, now living in Florida, took Wells to court over the remaining checks, and in June a judge ordered Wells to honor the $10,000 plus interest that would have accrued since the man attempted to deposit the money.

However, Wells has appealed the ruling, claiming that Florida law sets a five-year limit on cashier’s checks.

“We are abiding by the law,” a Wells rep tells the Tampa Bay Times. “The judge in this case elected to ignore the case law that supports it. It’s an unfortunate situation, and now that it’s in litigation, there is not much more we can do or say.”

The man’s attorney disagrees with the bank’s stance, telling the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the statute of limitations cited by the bank applies to cases of fraud or duress, not to the customer’s right to cash their check.

“Cashiers checks have to be paid regardless of the time that goes by,” says the lawyer. “There’s no five-year limit on the payment. They are a substitute for cash and have to be paid… It’s just not fair that a bank would be able to keep his money.”

The plaintiff feels like Wells’ appeal is just an attempt to bully him into backing down.

“How can a little guy like me fight Wells Fargo?” he asks the Herald-Tribune. “Hiring an attorney is not cheap. They know it could cost you $10,000 in legal fees before it’s over. So they’re hoping you drop the case.”

As the Times points out, cashier’s checks printed today often include a date after which they may not be honored, but the plaintiff in this case says his 1982 checks do not include any such information.

Bank refuses to honor ill man’s cashier checks [HeraldTribune.com]
Wells Fargo says no way to kidney patient trying to cash long-ago checks [TampaBay.com]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.