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Lessons from Vancura: Liability Protection Is Essential

If there’s one key lesson Notaries everywhere can learn from the Vancura v. Katris case it’s that you must own your official duties and responsibilities bestowed upon you by your commission. There is no longer a “gray area” of liability shared with employers, signers or anyone else that Notaries can claim excuses negligence.

The decade-old litigation was recently brought to a close by the Illinois Supreme Court’s recently published opinion. All parties in the case agreed that Notary Gustavo Albear committed misconduct either by notarizing Richard Vancura’s signature on a mortgage assignment without his physical appearance, or without properly identifying the person purporting to be Vancura.

Albear settled in advance of the trial for $30,000. Had he not settled, the court could have held him liable along with the other defendants for Vancura’s full losses of over $110,000.

On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court placed all responsibility for the loss squarely on the shoulders of Albear, clearing his employer of any liability even though the employer provided him training. This ruling set a precedent, and sent a loud message on behalf of the court: Notaries are responsible for their commissions and alone bear responsibility to the public for their actions.

To avoid liability and manage their risks, Notaries today must understand the tremendous responsibility their commission entails and act accordingly. They must seek out training to ensure they fully master state laws and best practices. They must reinforce their training so that they never forget what they have learned. And, they must supervise themselves to ensure that they never fail to apply the principles of their training to the notarizations they perform.

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