Have you ever thought about “fudging” a little on properly notarizing a document? Perhaps you had the signature page sent ahead and begged a favor from a friendly notary, vouching for the absent party’s signature? A recent Delaware case where this occurred ended disastrously for the litigants. In Bessenyei, et al. v Vermillion, one of the plaintiffs was out of the country. The other plaintiff, a Pennsylvania attorney, convinced his legal assistant to notarize the absent plaintiff’s signature – on 3 different pleadings! The court did not take kindly to this lack of integrity and dismissed the case against BOTH parties with prejudice.
What are the consequences of the Bessenyei case in our area? Maryland, Virginia and DC courts also take a hard line regarding notarized documents. For example, responding to allegations of documentation improprieties in the rash of recent foreclosures, the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted an emergency rule in 2010. The rule granted Maryland judges the authority to haul lawyers and notaries into court when a signature’s authenticity or document’s accuracy was questioned.
Moral of the story? Be vigilant. Investigate the situation if you believe a document was not properly signed or verified. Take the extra step or that last one could mean a very bad fall and dire consequences -- both for the deal/case and for your future business prospects. The parties in Bessenyei are facing possible disciplinary actions in addition to losing their day in court.