A Canadian farmer will have to pay $61,000 in damages to a business partner after a judge ruled that the thumbs-up emoji validly confirms a legal contract.
In a precedent-setting lawsuit, the judge acknowledged that the thumbs-up emoji is a non-traditional way to sign a document. Nevertheless, he ruled that “under the circumstances, this was a valid way to convey the purpose of a ‘signature.’”
The lawsuit was filed by a Canadian grain buyer, accusing a farmer of breach of contract. The buyer, Kent Mickleborough, had contracted with the farmer, Chris Achter, to purchase 87 tons of flax. He then drew up a contract, signed it, and sent a photo to Chris, who responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
According to court documents seen by the New York Times, Mickleborough claims he included the message, “Please confirm flax contract.” By replying with the emoji, the farmer was thus agreeing to the terms of the contract, argued the buyer.
However, the farmer argues that the emoji only conveyed that he had received the contract and expected a copy via email or fax.
In his ruling, Judge T.J. Keene acknowledged that while it was unconventional, the emoji signified the farmer had agreed to the contract. The judge referred to the dictionary.com definition of the emoji, stating that it’s used to “express assent, approval or encouragement in digital communications, especially in Western cultures.”
“I am not sure how authoritative that is, but this seems to comport with my understanding from my everyday use — even as a late comer to the world of technology,” Judge Keene stated.
He ordered the farmer to pay $61,000 in damages to the grain buyer.
In the digital asset world, a New York judge ruled in March that using the “to the moon” rocketship emoji counts as financial advice. In a class-action lawsuit against Dapper Labs, the makers of the NBA Top Shot Moments NFT collection, the judge ruled that the company used emojis to indicate a return on investment.
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