North American Title Co. v. GugasyanAnnotate this Case
California law sets up a presumptive safe harbor for notaries if, as pertinent here, the notary is presented with a driver's license issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that is current or issued within the preceding five years, and if there is an absence of information, evidence, or other circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person appearing before the notary is not the individual he or she claims to be. This appeal requires the Court of Appeal to define the scope of this statutory safe harbor.
In the published portion of the opinion, the court ultimately concluded that the safe harbor (1) applies when a notary relies upon a driver's license that looks like one the DMV would issue (and thus does not require a notary to verify with the DMV that the driver's license is, in fact, a legitimately issued license), (2) applies even if an expert opines that industry custom requires a notary to do more than the statutory safe harbor requires, and (3) is not overcome by the simple fact that the person who appeared before the notary was an imposter. Therefore, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on negligence-based claims against the two notaries in this case as well as the surety that insured them.