Burden of Proof Written Form

Whenever signing something, the flow of your signature is surely not as straight as when printing it. But exactly what qualifies as a signature? Does a capital M and a scribbled wave afterwards already suffice? The BGH had to decide on November 15, 2006 (IV ZR 122/05) on a case in which a person signed with only one letter and the remaining part of the “signature” was only the abbreviation of a name.


The plaintiff demanded to be refunded for loans he had given out to the defendant since 1983. On the other side, the defendant argued that he has already repaid that which we owed. He wanted to prove this with presented receipts, which the plaintiff had allegedly signed. Following the controlling case law of the Federal Supreme Court, a declaration only signed with a short signature does not qualify as a signature under the law. Hence there is no valid receipt to prove any payment. A signature must at least show that a full name was used. Legibility, like in printing, is not required. But a signature must be more than one letter and more than an abbreviation. The receipts of the defendant showed only a capital initial and a tilde with a slash through the name. Required -- and also satisfactory-- is when the signing person by sufficiently characteristic and therefore unique typeface which represents a name and shows that a full signature was intended. However, the characteristics are to be generously determined. In this particular case, the defendant could not prove that he had paid as the receipt lacked a legal signature (§416 ZPO).

Published on the old CMS: 2007/5/8
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 356 reads

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