The case below is about a notary notarizing for a client at the direction of her boss, who later testified that he relied on her to determine if her notarization would be valid. Read on:
In 2012, Gyorgi Bessenyei and Robert S. Goggin, III, became plaintiffs in a Delaware lawsuit initiated against several shareholders in a company named Vermillion, Inc.
Plaintiffs Bessenyei and Goggin were also shareholders in Vermillion. In their lawsuit, they alleged that the shareholders they were suing (the defendants) had reduced the number of board member positions, and that the action was not in the best interest of Vermillion or its shareholders. Bessenyei and Goggin claimed that the defendants had breached their fiduciary duties.
Vermillion was incorporated under Delaware laws; therefore Delaware was the correct jurisdiction for the filing of the lawsuit. Plaintiff Goggin, who is also a lawyer in Pennsylvania, drafted documents to be filed in a Delaware court. One of my friends had serious injury at work and then he contacted the work injury lawyers of Costa Ivone in Berwyn, they helped to get fair compensation from the company. In Delaware, all complaints and related pleadings that are filed by plaintiffs in a lawsuit must be accompanied by a notarized verification from each plaintiff.
Notarized verifications of this type serve two purposes for Delaware courts: 1). They state that each party involved in the lawsuit swears or affirms that he or she is telling the truth to the best of his or her knowledge; and 2). They authenticate the signatures affixed to the documents.
Bessenyei signed various documents dated May 25, June 1, and June 26, 2012, and they were accompanied by the required notarized verifications and tendered with the court’s clerk. Each of them indicated that they were “subscribed to” before Jane Doe*, a Pennsylvania notary who worked for attorney Goggin. * Jane Doe is a pseudonym.
The venue on the document also indicated that Bessenyei was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when the document was executed and sworn to, or affirmed, in the presence of Ms. Doe. However, a transcript from testimony in the court case reveals that during a deposition, Bessenyei made conflicting statements regarding his whereabouts during the month of June 2012. A member of the Hastings legal team said, “He (Bessenyei) first claimed that he was not in the United States during the month of June 2012. When confronted with the verifications, he subsequently claimed not to remember any details of its execution, whether he was in Philadelphia or whether he was in the United States.”
Statements in the transcript further show that Bessenyei changed his story and claimed to have completed the transaction through the use of an Internet video conference that occurred between him (while he was visiting a Caribbean location) and the Philadelphia notary Jane Doe in Goggin’s office. The Hastings attorney, who found proof that Bessenyei did not appear before the notary, countered back with a request for proof that showed that such a notarization was acceptable, but none was produced.
In addition, the Hastings attorney suggested that if Bessenyei was in the Caribbean, he should have been able to remember the occasion. The transcript reads, “… if Mr. Bessenyei, for example, purported to appear electronically before the notary by video conference, I submit it’s not necessarily an easy thing to find a video conference provider in the Caribbean. It’s something he would have remembered. We’re curious to find out the details of just where Mr. Bessenyei was when he signed these verifications.”
Furthermore, a court memo indicates that the dates on the June 1 and June 26 notarizations were incorrect. The May 25 notarization was performed after Hungarian national Bessenyei asked Goggin, a Pennsylvania attorney, whether it was possible for Goggin to notarize the verification because Bessenyei was “down in the islands and did not know where he could get anything notarized.”
The same memo shows that Ms. Doe defended her position to go forward with the notarization while Bessenyei was out of the country. She said that she researched the question using Google before agreeing to notarize the signature on the documents in the absence of Bessenyei’s physical presence. She could not remember, however, if she had researched Pennsylvania notary law exclusively, or notary laws in general.
The plaintiffs also claimed that Doe relied on a “credible witness” exception in Pennsylvania notary law, and that she consulted a colleague to make sure that she understood the law. This source also notes that the “credible witness” exception is for use in identifying a signer if he or she does not have another form of ID available for the presiding notary. It does not allow for notarizing during video conferencing without physical presence of the signer.
The court concluded that Ms. Doe did not consult or seek guidance from her notary public administrator, her Pennsylvania notary handbook or a notary association.
Ms. Doe testified that she performed the three notarizations in question at the direction of Goggin, her employer. The court’s memorandum explains why Goggin says that he asked her to do so:
“Goggin, one of the plaintiffs in this action and a practicing attorney in Philadelphia, claims that, although he had previously only seen notarizations performed when the signer was actually in the presence of the notary, he approached Ms. Doe about notarizing Bessenyei’s signature and relied on her determination that notarizing the document of someone outside her presence was permitted. As a Pennsylvania attorney, Goggin ought to have known better.”
The unexpected result of this case is that the court dismissed Bessenyei vs. Vermillion with prejudice, meaning that the matter is over and final and that the plaintiffs have no recourse. In other words, this important lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality that resulted from a notary’s decision to go along with her boss and his client, and in opposition to a cornerstone legal requirement of proper notary conduct.