Hold up!If you missed World Emoji Day…
Just when you thought it was safe to wade back into the emoji waters a Saskatchewan court has made waves by finding that a party’s use of the emoji served as an acceptable assent to contract.
The case stemmed from a communication in which a farmer was approached with an offer from a grain buyer to purchase 87 metric tons of flax. (Fun fact: Canada is one of the largest producers of flax in the world.) The buyer signed a legal document outlining the terms of the sale and then sent the seller a digital image of the document. In response to receiving the electronic document, the seller replied with the thumbs-up emoji. The Court noted that the parties did have prior business dealings in which brief text and verbal responses were utilized. In the present situation however, the parties disagreedas to their respective interpretations of the meaning of the response as it applied to the contract validity, with the buyer claiming it was clearly an intention to accept the contract terms, and the seller claiming he used the symbol to merely acknowledge receipt of the document. The Court of King’s Bench for Saskatchewan found that the thumbs-up emoji did indeed serve as a valid means of signing a document and concluded that the emoji successfully served both the purpose of identifying the signatory while also conveying acceptance of the contract.
This latest decision is an example of the ever-growing presence of alternative language devices in our personal and business vocabulary, and an important reminder that the use of such symbols should be weighed just as carefully as when crafting sentiments in a more traditional manner. Similarly, in the legal arena, it is vital to be aware of the presence of such items when interviewing custodians, collecting/searching data, efficiently reviewing non-traditional material, and analyzing the meanings that could be attributed to such expressions. Remember, emojis not only express sentiments, but they also are subject to court interpretation and—in some cases—damage awards!