In a case of first impression, the Illinois First District Court of Appeal has ruled that copy shop Kinko’s may not be held liable under the Illinois Notary Public Act for misconduct by a notary it employed, but may be held liable for common-law negligence. In Vancura v. Katris, No. 1-06-2750 (Ill. 1st. Dec. 26, 2008) , the appeals court found that Kinko’s did not consent to the misconduct and vacated $233,000 in jury awards.
Plaintiff Richard Vancura helped fund a real estate investment by defendant Glenn Brown, who had trouble reselling the property. A mutual acquaintance, Randall Boatwright, agreed to give Vancura shares in his company in exchange for Brown’s debt to Vancura, which he agreed to lower. Brown then struck a related deal giving defendant Peter Katris an interest in the property and arranged a real estate closing at which all of these deals would be sealed. Boatwright and his business partner had Vancura sign some papers on the day before the closing, but then realized that some would have to be notarized. They visited a local Kinko’s for that purpose, but without Vancura. One of the documents they left with had purported signatures from Vancura and Gustavo Albear, the notary.
Several months later, Vancura called Brown and discovered that Brown believed the debt was resolved. Vancura, who had not been paid, did not agree, and eventually sued a variety of defendants, including Albear and Kinko’s; Brown and Katris also sued those defendants, along with Boatwright. After a bench trial, the trial court found Kinko’s liable to Vancura, Brown and Katris for violations of the Notary Public Act as well as negligent supervision and training of Albear. Kinko’s appealed both.