A decision by an Illinois circuit court that may have set a precedent for notarial education has been reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court.
In a 1996 bench trial, Kinko’s Inc., in Illinois, was found liable for damages resulting from an employee’s notarization of a forged signature on a mortgage document. The notary, Gustavo Albear, testified that his signature as a notary and the use of his notary stamp were legitimate on the mortgage release deed of Richard Vancura, a real estate investor. However, the alleged signature in the notary section of the assignment of mortgage was not his.
Albear said he required only one form of identification to perform notarizations and did not require that the ID have the person’s photograph, only a signature. Albear pointed to the notary training he received from Kinko’s to illustrate his testimony.
During the bench trial, Attorney Michael Closen, also a notary and national expert on notarial practice and law, testified that Kinko’s training and supervision of Albear regarding the identification of document signers was insufficient. He told the court the person who provided the store’s notary training was unqualified and unfamiliar with sound notary practices. Closen said the training Kinko’s provided did not meet the standard set by the Model Notary Act, which was written by the National Notary Association.
After Kinko’s was found liable to Vancura for the total of the mortgage note, the company filed an appeal with the Appellate Court of Illinois.
In December 2008, the Appellate Court reversed the finding of liability under the Notary Public Act, but affirmed the judgment of the circuit court on the common law negligent claim. The appellate court found that Kinko’s failed to meet the necessary standard of care and was liable for negligent training and supervision of its notary employees.
In their opinion dated October 7, 2010, the justices unanimously ruled that because the Model Notary Act had not been adopted by the Illinois legislature or included in the state’s Notary Public Act in 1995, Kinko’s was not under a duty to provide notary training classes taught exclusively by notaries, require their notaries to keep a journal and require photo identification of customers.
The justices determined that Kinko’s “fulfilled its duty to ensure that the training program complied with the requirements of the Illinois Notary Public Act” and reversed the lower courts finding of liability against Kinko’s.