Beware before you lightly send another thumbs-up emoji: a Canadian court ruled that the ubiquitous symbol can affirm that a person is officially signing a contract.
The ruling highlights what the judge called the “new reality of Canadian society,” which courts will have to contend with as more people use hearts, smiley faces and fire emoji to express themselves, even in serious business or personal disputes.
The matter wanted to elucidate whether a Saskatchewan farmer had agreed to sell 87 metric tons of flaxseed to a grain buyer in 2021. The buyer had signed the contract and sent a photo to the farmer, who responded with a “thumbs up” emoji.
The farmer, Chris Achter, claimed that the “thumbs-up emoji only confirmed that he had received the flaxseed contract” and was not a confirmation that he agreed to its terms, according to the ruling. He said he had understood the text to mean that he would “later be faxed or emailed the full contract to review and sign.”
The grain buyer, Kent Mickleborough, noted that when he texted the photo of the contract to Achter’s phone, he had written, “Please confirm flaxseed contract.” So when Achter responded with a thumbs-up emoji, Mickleborough said he understood that Achter “agreed to the contract” and that this had been “his way” of signing it.
“This court recognizes that an emoji of is a non-traditional means of ‘signing’ a document; however, in these circumstances, it constituted a valid way of conveying the two purposes of a ‘signature’: to identify the signer” as Achter, because he was texting from his cell phone number, and to “convey Achter’s acceptance of the flaxseed contract,” Keene wrote.
Contractual agreements are typically formed through a mutual understanding and meeting of the minds between parties involved. Generally, a contract requires offer, acceptance, consideration, and an intention to create legal relations. While digital communications, including emojis, can be used as evidence in contract disputes to interpret the intentions of the parties involved, the interpretation and enforcement of contracts depend on various factors, including jurisdiction, context, and specific circumstances of the case.
It’s always essential to consult with a legal professional or refer to reputable sources for accurate and up-to-date information on legal matters in a specific jurisdiction.