What to do if you receive a payment from a debtor with the words “acceptance of this check denotes payment in full”? The answer varies based on State law and the facts of the situation.
NOTE: You cannot cross out the language and write “under protest”.
Two primary issues is determining if you should cash the check are:
1. Is there a dispute between the parties regarding the amount owed?
2. Whether a “satisfaction of a debt” exists (they are offering to pay a lesser amount).
When there is a dispute between parties regarding the balance owed — the debtor can offer a lesser amount as full payment. If the creditor accepts the offer — this is referred to as an “accord and satisfaction”.
It should also be noted that some courts have held that when, in ignorance, a creditor’s accounting department cashes a debtor’s check (that it was an attempt to “accord and satisfaction”). A subsequent & timely protest by the creditor may result in defeating the “accord and satisfaction”.
Note: In some states, when a claim is disputed and a check is offered for settlement, the retention of the check constitutes “accord and satisfaction” — regardless of any protest by the creditor.