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Notary Bulletin

The Legal Description Ranks Notary Case Among Top 10 Court Decisions Of 2009

A groundbreaking Illinois Appellate Court decision that mandated Notaries adhere to a standard of care that goes beyond state laws has been named one of the top 10 most influential cases of 2009 by The Legal Description, a respected trade publication for the legal, real estate and mortgage services industries.

The case — Vancura v. Katris — has a profound impact on Notaries and their employers. It hinged on whether employers can be held liable for the errors of their employee Notaries resulting from faulty training and supervision. Notaries now have a virtual mandate to perform their duties ethically and professionally, and their employers are obligated to make sure their Notaries are properly trained and supervised. The cost of ignoring the court’s ruling is increased legal and liability risks for Notaries and their employers, and the public’s heightened vulnerability to fraud and forgery, which puts their assets, property and identities at risk.

What is perhaps most significant about the Vancura decision is the extent to which the court relied upon the National Notary Association-published Model Notary Act as the industry standard “persuasive authority” in making its decision. The court relied on the standards set forth in the Model Notary Act with respect to what constitutes satisfactory evidence of identification, proper maintenance of a Notary’s seal, and employer-Notary issues.

In Vancura v. Katris, the Illinois Appellate Court held a national photocopy chain directly liable for the misconduct of a Notary employee at a suburban Chicago store because the business failed to properly train and supervise him — even though state law imposed no such requirement. The case centered around a real estate deal that involved a Notary’s acknowledgment of a forged signature on property documents and the use of his seal on another document without the Notary’s knowledge.

The Appellate Court held that the employer was liable for damages because it had a broad, legal responsibility to make sure its Notaries followed notarial best practices above and beyond what state law required. The Notary also paid a steep price for his carelessness. As the facts proved his culpability, the Notary found himself in an untenable situation and settled with Vancura out of his own pocket for $30,000.

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