Validity of the contract with the only initials of the declarant

A contract can be considered validly concluded between the parties even with the initials of the declarant, as provided in decision no.6573/2018 of the Supreme Court of Cassation.

In fact, according to the prevalent case-law, the signature of the declarant – consisting in name and surname put by himself or in identifiable initials – expresses the authorship and commitment of the declaration that, in lack of it, shall not result in the conclusion of the transaction, in case the form ab substantiam is required.

The potential illegibility of the signature shall not invalidate the transaction for the defect in form ab substantiam, but the identification of its author is required to verify the legitimacy of it.

In fact, the legibility of a signature varies according to the ability to interpret of the person responsible for this operation  and only in case the signature is absolutely incomprehensible and objectively not attributable to his author, as for an evaluation entrusted to a person of medium diligence, shall not be considered put in the contract.

Furthermore, the signature, in contrast to the initials and annotation of name and surname in block letters, is considered an exclusive expression of the declarant’s personality, in order to represent an implicit guarantee of the authorship of the signature. In this context, the person who is responsible for the interpretation of the signature shall not expect a condition of objective  legibility, under penalty of distort its main feature, that is its total personality and its specific function.

The exam on the signature shall be limited to verify, even on the basis of data and external elements, if it is attributable to its author, regardless of an objective legibility.

Moreover, the initials can be subjected to compliant false confession as results from their ability to be attributable to a specific person.  In order to verify the authorship of the signature, certain type of handwriting features become relevant, as for the hand pressing on the paper, the inclination of the word mark or the dimensions of the single letters, if perfectly concordant among themselves and private deeds.

In certain cases, the initials shall not be considered entirely alternative to the signature, as for the payment, by the bank, of a cheque signed with the only initials of the drawer, instead of the complete indication of his name and surname (provided for in Article 11 of decree no. 1736/1933) since it is not in line with the professional diligence required under Article 1176, paragraph 2 of the Italian Civil Code and, consequently, it occurs at risk of the bank itself.