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Court Rules an Emoji Can Bind You to a Contract


More and more of us are becoming aware that the things we text have actually legal impact and meaning. Just like any kind of writing, our texts can bind us, and be used as evidence in all kinds of legal proceedings. But as one farmer has now learned, not only can the words you text get you in trouble, but so can symbols—specifically, emojis.

Man Agrees to Contract With Thumbs Up Emoji

The case arose simply enough—a man confirming a contract by texting a thumbs up emoji—the same little thumbs up hand that’s on most of our cell phone text keyboards.

But later, the man didn’t deliver on his promise. He was sued for breach of contract, and when he was, he defended the claim by saying that he had never actually agreed to the contract—essentially, arguing that a simple thus up emoji was insufficient to constitute valid assent to a binding contract.

Rather, his defense was that the thumbs up he sent in response to the contract meant that he had actually received a copy of the agreement—not that he ever agreed to its terms. He believed that a full contract with all terms and conditions for his review was still forthcoming.

He also said that if a thumbs up emoji could constitute a valid acceptance of a contract that it would open up the floodgates to further litigation, as every emoji would now be subject to interpretation and legal disputes interpreting every emoji’s legal meaning.

Court Says an Emoji Can be Acceptance

But the court disagreed—it said that reasonable people would objectively believe a thumbs up to be an agreement. Hence, the judge felt that the thumbs up emoji in fact, bound the farmer to the contract, allowing him to be sued.

It’s worth noting that this decision was from a Canadian court, so while it may not be legally binding on any American court, it still could open the doors to litigation here in America, and it still is a warning to businesspeople who communicate through text.

Use Words and Symbols Carefully

Anything that may objectively be interpreted as an asset to a contract, can end up being legally binding. That can be through a text, an email, an emoji, or even a comment on social media. Think of how the words (or pictures or symbols) you say and use can be interpreted. Anything that could be interpreted as a meeting of the minds, could form a valid contract or have other legal meaning.

It is best to make sure that the verbiage in any of your communications expresses what you mean. You don’t have to be verbose. For example, saying “received, will review,” or “Will look over and follow up with you” or something similar, is a much better practice than simply sending an emoji.

Call the West Palm Beach business lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help reviewing your contracts and agreements.




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