A farmer has been ordered to pay up a staggering $92,000 (£71,600) after sending a thumbs-up emoji in a text.
Chris Achter was speaking with Kent Mickleborough, a grain buyer who worked for South West Terminal Ltd (SWT). A contract for 86 tonnes of flax for $25 a bushel was drafted between the pair, and the order was expected to arrive in November.
Mickleborough signed the document and sent Achter a photo, writing: "Please confirm flax contract".
Achter responded with a thumbs-up emoji – but the order did not arrive by the intended date.
The Court of King’s Bench in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has said the Canadian farmer must pay a fee of $92,000. They believe the emoji confirmed the contract, which was later breached.
In the legal documents, Achter claimed his use of the emoji was to confirm he had received the document and "understood the complete contract would follow by fax or email."
He went on to deny that he accepted the emoji as a digital signature of the "incomplete contract," adding: "I did not have time to review the Flax Contract and merely wanted to indicate that I did receive his text message."
His legal team argued that "allowing a simple [thumbs up] emoji to signify identity and acceptance would open up the flood gates to allow all sorts of cases coming forward asking for interpretations as to what various different emojis mean … Counsel argues the courts will be inundated with all kinds of cases if this court finds that the [thumbs up] emoji can take the place of a signature."
Meanwhile, the buyers adamantly believed the emoji signified Achter accepted the contract.
According to AU News, Justice Timothy Keene summarised the case by saying the case "led parties to a far-flung search for the equivalent of the Rosetta stone in cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada, etc. to unearth what a [thumbs-up] emoji means."
"This court readily acknowledges that a [thumbs-up] emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document, but nevertheless, under these circumstances, this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a 'signature.'"
He continued: "This Court cannot (nor should it) attempt to stem the tide of technology and common usage – this appears to be the new reality in Canadian society, and courts will have to be ready to meet the new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and the like."
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