United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending before the Court are a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) and
Brief in Support (Doc. 8), filed collectively by Defendants
Arvest Bank and Sabrina C. Cooper. Plaintiff Will Grote filed
a Response in Opposition to the Motion (Doc. 10) and a Brief
in Support (Doc. 11), and on September 6, 2017, the Court
held a hearing in order to allow the parties to present oral
argument. At the close of the hearing, the Court took the
matter under advisement. For the reasons described below, the
Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED.
Grote's Complaint (Doc. 1) alleges that on April 7, 2014,
an unknown party forged Mr. Grote's signature on a Loan
and Security Agreement ("Loan Agreement") (Doc.
1-1, pp. 1-5) that obligated Mr. Grote to purchase two tanker
trailers from General Electric Capital Corporation
("GECC") in the amount of $156, 854.88. Although
Mr. Grote claims that his signature on the Loan Agreement was
forged, he does not identify the alleged forger in the
Complaint, nor does he speculate as to the forger's
motivation in forging his signature. In Court during the
motion hearing, counsel for Mr. Grote admitted that the
signature on the Loan Agreement was not notarized.
days after the Loan Agreement was signed, an unnamed
individual drew up a separate document related to the
purchase of the trailers, entitled "Power of Attorney
(Motor Vehicle Titling, Licensing and Registration)"
("POA") (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). Mr. Grote contends that
the POA also contained his forged signature; however, unlike
his signature on the Loan Agreement, his signature on the POA
was notarized, allegedly by Defendant Sabrina C. Cooper, an
Arkansas notary public.
instant lawsuit, Mr. Grote has sued Ms. Cooper and her
employer, Arvest Bank. According to Mr. Grote, Ms.
Cooper's negligence in notarizing a forged signature
proximately caused him to incur damages in the amount of the
entire cost of the two tanker trailers, as well as the costs
involved in transporting, licensing, and registering the
trailers. He explains that he first became aware of
the Loan Agreement when he began receiving phone calls from
GECC, informing him that he had purchased two trailers and
needed to pay for them. Despite the fact that Mr. Grote
believed he had not purchased any trailers and that his
signature on the Loan Agreement was a forgery, he
nevertheless "arranged to have the trailers picked up in
North Dakota, and he began making payments on the
trailers." (Doc. 1, p. 3). He claims that he did these
things "[i]n an effort to protect his credit and
mitigate his damages." Id.
Cooper's and Arvest's Motion to Dismiss argues that
Mr. Grote has failed to state a plausible claim for
negligence-the only cause of action asserted against them.
First, they maintain that a three-year statute of limitations
bars the claim for negligence. And second, they contend that
the facts pleaded in the Complaint fail to show that Ms.
Cooper's acts and/or omissions proximately caused Mr.
Grote's alleged damages. In response, Mr. Grote argues
that the Complaint was timely filed exactly three years after
Ms. Cooper notarized his signature on the POA agreement. As
for the issue of proximate causation, Mr. Grote maintains
that GECC relied on the forged signature on the POA
to begin its collection efforts against Mr. Grote, and that
is why Ms. Cooper is to blame for his damages associated with
the trailers. Below, the Court will analyze the parties'
arguments and test the sufficiency of the Complaint.
survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must provide "a
short and plain statement of the claim that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose
of this requirement is to "give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93
(2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007)). The Court must accept as true all factual
allegations set forth in the Complaint by Plaintiff, drawing
all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs favor. See Ashley
Cty., Ark. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir.
the Complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. "A pleading that offers
'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
'naked assertions' devoid of 'further factual
enhancement.'" Id. In other words,
"the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require
'detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more
than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
Court has examined the Loan Agreement attached to the
Complaint and finds its terms to be clear and unambiguous.
The Loan Agreement: (1) obligated Mr. Grote to pay GECC for
the trailers; (2) created an agency relationship between Mr.
Grote and GECC; and (3) named GECC as Mr. Grote's power
of attorney, empowered to prepare and execute any insurance,
financing, and titling paperwork that was needed to secure
GECC's security interest in the trailers. See
Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 2.0, 2.1, 4.2. The separate POA
agreement, on the other hand, was notarized more than a week
after the Loan Agreement was signed, and the POA agreement
created no new rights, duties, or obligations between Mr.
Grote and GECC that were not already present in the Loan
Agreement. See Id. at 6. At most, the POA agreement
duplicated the power-of-attorney rights from the Loan
Agreement and presented them in a separate document,
presumably for the purpose of submitting only the
power-of-attorney piece of the Loan Agreement to
Oklahoma's Department of Licensing and Registration. See
Statute of Limitations
Grote is correct that the three-year statute of limitations
for negligence claims does not bar his suit against Ms.
Cooper and Arvest Bank. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105
establishes a three-year period in which to file a claim of
negligence that begins when the negligence occurs, not when
it is discovered. Orsini v. Larry Moyer Trucking,
Inc.,310 Ark. 179, 183 (1992). Mr. Grate alleges that
the negligent act in question occurred on the date Ms. Cooper
notarized the ...