Confirming a contract with a thumbs-up emoji is as good as a signature rule courts, which is a costly error for one Canadian farmer.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image by Sallman Hayat from Pixabay
Oh, poo emoji.
That’s likely the reaction of a Canadian farmer who is now on the hook for over $82,000 after a thumbs-up emoji (see example above) he sent to a seller has been ruled to have been as good as a binding contract signature.
This case involves farmer Chris Achter and grain buyer Kent Mickleborough, who entered into a deal for the sale of 87 metric tons of flax in 2021.
Mickleborough, of South West Terminal Ltd. of Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, signed his agreement to the deal via contract and sent a picture of the contract via text to Achter.
The text included the message: "Please confirm flax contract."
Achter sent back a text of his own in the message chain that simply showed a thumbs-up emoji.
The legal problem: Achter claims the thumbs-up emoji he sent was just to confirm receipt of the contract. It had nothing to do with his acceptance of the terms of the contract.
Mickleborough, of course, assumed that the thumbs-up emoji he received back implied the deal was a go.
After Achter failed to deliver his flax to the South West Terminal as the contract had stipulated, Mickleborough sued for damages resulting from a breach of contract.
Judge T.J. Keene of the Court of King’s Bench in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, ruled that the thumbs-up emoji DID represent agreement to the contract terms and said that—on June 8, 2023—Achter must pay Mickleborough $82,200.
It seems that in this strange new world of AI and emojis, contracts will have to be vetted by 12-year-old lawyers before being presented.
During the court hearing, Achter said that he did not believe the thumbs-up emoji could serve as a signature or an agreement to a contract. Achter told the court that in other exchanges with Mickleborough, he had texted him such stellar sentences as: "looks good", "ok", and "yup"—all in lowercase.
Judge Keene’s decision has created a legal precedent that could lead in future cases to how different emojis are interpreted by different people—at least that’s what Achter’s lawyer argued.
However, the judge said that in this case there could be no argument that the thumbs-up emoji was a valid means for Achter to show his acceptance of the flax contract’s inner workings and not just an acknowledgment of having received the contract.
Providing a thumbs-up has long denoted positivity, approval, satisfaction, solidarity, and achievement.
Providing a thumbs-down shows disapproval, dissatisfaction, rejection, and failure.
And should one have observed the goings on at the Coliseum in Rome, a thumbs up or a thumbs down implied, respectively, life or death for a gladiator.
Perhaps the lesson is to not use an emoji at all when conversing about business.