ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 717-211, DIVISION " G" . HONORABLE ROBERT A. PITRE, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING.
PATRICIA S. LEBLANC, DEBORAH A. VILLIO, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Metairie, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT, ELIZABETH VERLANDER WEBB.
GUS A. FRITCHIE, III, ATTORNEY AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, SUTTERFIELD & WEBB, LLC.
Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois, and Marc E. Johnson.
SUSAN M. CHEHARDY, J.
[14-422 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] In this matter, appellant seeks review of the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a law firm on the basis that it was not vicariously liable for the actions of one of its attorney-notaries. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.
Facts and Procedural History
In 2011, Daniel and Elizabeth Webb had been married for 39 years. On December 12, 2011, Daniel, who is an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana and a founding member of the law firm, Sutterfield & Webb, LLC, entered into a credit agreement with First NBC Bank, purportedly secured by a mortgage on immovable
community property in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. The mortgage instrument also bears a signature purporting to be that of Elizabeth Webb; however, Elizabeth avers that she did not sign that mortgage, and Daniel admits, that the signature is a forgery.
[14-422 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] Nonetheless, Daniel, without Elizabeth present, presented the mortgage document for notarization to another attorney, Scott Winstead, who is a member of Sutterfield & Webb, LLC (hereinafter " LLC" ). Winstead notarized the signatures on the document attesting, " THUS DONE AND PASSED, on the day, month and year first written above, in the presence of the undersigned Notary and the undersigned competent witnesses, who hereunto sign their names with me after reading of the whole." Winstead, in an affidavit, admitted that, at Daniel's request, he notarized the signatures without witnessing Elizabeth affix her signature to the document. He avers that his action as a notary, although performed during business hours in his office, was a " personal favor" to his law partner, not an action in the course and scope of his employment with the LLC.
On July 19, 2012, after inadvertently discovering that Daniel had mortgaged their community property, Elizabeth filed the instant litigation seeking, among other things, damages against the LLC for the actions of its employee, Winstead.
On January 24, 2014, the LLC moved for summary judgment on the basis that Elizabeth failed to allege that Winstead's actions were performed in the course and scope of his employment or " to benefit the business objectives of" the LLC. Specifically, the LLC argues " while Winstead may have notarized this document in the course of his employment as a notary, it was not notarized in the scope of his employment with [the LLC], if his testimony is taken to be true." In support of its motion for summary ...