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Law firm not responsible for employee's fraudulent notarization of signature.

Susan Grossman sued Liss and Associates, her ex-husband's attorneys, after an employee allegedly notarized her forged signature on an assignment of mortgage.  The case has made its way to the appellate court twice previously, and the court had overturned both a summary disposition and a directed verdict that had been granted to the defendant law firm.  Previously the court had held that whether the employee was acting "within the scope of her employment" at the time of the allegedly illegal act was a question of fact for the jury.  On this appeal, the plaintiff was attempting to overturn a jury verdict for the defense, based on what she claimed were unfair instructions from the trial judge.

At the conclusion of the trial, in the course of explaining the "scope of employment" to the jury, the judge told jurors that the employee's conduct must be "authorized and incidental" to work duties.  He should have told them that the wrongful conduct must be "authorized or incidental".  Obviously, this minor semantic difference can have an enormous impact, since the instructions given essentially required Grossman to approve that a lawyer with Liss and Associates approved or "authorized" the fraudulent notarization. 

Nevertheless, the Court held that since Grossman's lawyer did not catch the error at the time and raise an objection immediately, the verdict would not be overturned because Grossman could not prove a "manifest injustice...a plain error affecting substantial rights."  I'm guessing that Susan Grossman doesn't have much good to say about our judicial system.  Apparent fraud by a law firm's employee; three errors by the lower court; two corrected on appeal and the third acknowledged but explained away.  Not a record to be proud of.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262