Can a email be considered "in writing? [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Rancher
10-16-2012, 10:52
Having a dispute right now with a company that sent me an email ending their services to me. Had a contract that states either party can end contract if done "in writing".

The company stated they would continue services with me for 90 days back in July which was fine with me and I emailed them back it was fine. Now they are saying the contract had to be terminated "in writing". I told them that is what they did. Back in July.

Still have the email, they replied to my reply so they can't say they did not get it. They want me to pay another 90 days. I say no, they ended contract via email.

So GT Braintrust what you think? Can an email be considered "in writing"? That is the exact wording in the contract.

Rancher

427
10-16-2012, 11:03
If an oral contract can enforceable, why not an email?

Z71bill
10-16-2012, 11:49
If the person that sent you the E-mail had the authority to act on the company's behalf - you are GTG.

My GUESS is - they sent it to you without checking with their boss - boss wants the contract to continue - the person that sent you the E-mail is trying to cover their ass - get you to continue so they will not have to go tell the boss.

Bren
10-16-2012, 12:22
Having a dispute right now with a company that sent me an email ending their services to me. Had a contract that states either party can end contract if done "in writing".

The company stated they would continue services with me for 90 days back in July which was fine with me and I emailed them back it was fine. Now they are saying the contract had to be terminated "in writing". I told them that is what they did. Back in July.

Still have the email, they replied to my reply so they can't say they did not get it. They want me to pay another 90 days. I say no, they ended contract via email.

So GT Braintrust what you think? Can an email be considered "in writing"? That is the exact wording in the contract.

Rancher

Was the email not in writing? Most of them are.

I don't know about your state, but I have actually dealt with this issue in a Kentucky contract case, and my research said that an email with the senders name is not just "in writing" but is even a "signed writing" that met the requirements of the contract. I can't imagine a state where an email would not, at least, be considered "in writing."

In addition, they probably wrote the contract, instead of you, so a dispute about the term would usually be construed in your favor.

I'd bet a paycheck you win.

Gallium
10-16-2012, 12:58
It depends. I have contracts with multiple entities, and I cannot terminate the (a, one of, for example) contract by sending them a letter, for example, to their technical support dept. I have to send it to customer care/service etc.

What does your contract says about notification of termination of the contract?

Rancher
10-16-2012, 13:17
Thanks guys, the email was from a co-owner of the company. It included her name and title at the bottom which I assume goes out on all her emails.

Rancher

tsmo1066
10-16-2012, 13:22
An email from a password protected account is legally considered to be a signed, written document.

That being said, the company you are dealing with can always claim that you owe them 90 more days and then screw up your credit by sending that alleged debt off to a collection agency in spite of the emails you've got.

Your best bet is to have an attorney send them a certified letter on his letterhead informing them that you officially terminated your contract with them in writing back in July and that any further attempt to extract payment from you will result in legal action. Once they know that you've got representation and will bite if pushed, they will back off.

Jeffe
10-16-2012, 17:45
We do legally binding business via email all the time. Actually all our bidding and contracts are 'signed' by email and are contractually binding. We do do some significant contract work with various companies and never had a problem that way. Just -never- delete work email.

jpa
10-16-2012, 19:03
Having a dispute right now with a company that sent me an email ending their services to me. Had a contract that states either party can end contract if done "in writing".

The company stated they would continue services with me for 90 days back in July which was fine with me and I emailed them back it was fine. Now they are saying the contract had to be terminated "in writing". I told them that is what they did. Back in July.

Still have the email, they replied to my reply so they can't say they did not get it. They want me to pay another 90 days. I say no, they ended contract via email.

So GT Braintrust what you think? Can an email be considered "in writing"? That is the exact wording in the contract.

Rancher

To paraphrase...you received an email from the co-owner of a company that they will be discontinuing your service after continuing it for another 90 days. At the end of that 90 days they are claiming they didn't actually terminate the service and want you to continue paying?

I think my next email to them would be to pound sand. Unless of course you WANT to continue service, in which case I would insist on a new contract.

Reissman
10-16-2012, 19:08
When I write an email to a subcontractor or a GC I am working for I do a word document on a company memo. According to my company its legally binding in a letter form and email is not.

Happypuppy
10-16-2012, 19:39
To make a document binding "E-Signature" use a app such as Adobe approval or another that allows for a secured signature in a PDF. It's pretty common these days.


Sent via Messenger Pigeon

Hef
10-16-2012, 20:33
I document all of my important business correspondence by sending it via email and organizing it into folders by the customer and job. All official agreements are sent as PDF attachments with a read receipt and must be returned (signed) via email to be binding.

Changes, deletions, and additions to any agreement may be done via email and will be honored by our company. Failure of a customer to honor such an agreement will result in a lien against the customer's property if they don't pay their invoice within 30 days.

jpa
10-16-2012, 20:48
I document all of my important business correspondence by sending it via email and organizing it into folders by the customer and job. All official agreements are sent as PDF attachments with a read receipt and must be returned (signed) via email to be binding.

Changes, deletions, and additions to any agreement may be done via email and will be honored by our company. Failure of a customer to honor such an agreement will result in a lien against the customer's property if they don't pay their invoice within 30 days.

I'm just curious, have you ever had to enforce those terms? I would expect that most people who email you requesting a change would expect to pay for the change they requested, but what about those problem children who think they can get something for nothing? Also, what kind of work do you do if you don't mind posting?

I'm getting very interested in the whole electronic communication dynamic and how the legal system treats those communications. It's a big change from requiring notarized signatures on everything....

frizz
10-16-2012, 20:55
If an oral contract can enforceable, why not an email?
It can be, but not always. A contract concerning real estate is not enforceable unless it is in writing. Same for a contract that can't be executed within one year.

Then you have contracts that require any changes, extensions or additions to be mde in writing.

frizz
10-16-2012, 21:00
I'm just curious, have you ever had to enforce those terms? I would expect that most people who email you requesting a change would expect to pay for the change they requested, but what about those problem children who think they can get something for nothing? Also, what kind of work do you do if you don't mind posting?

I'm getting very interested in the whole electronic communication dynamic and how the legal system treats those communications. It's a big change from requiring notarized signatures on everything....

Cryptographic digital signatures is a good place to start on google to learn about the changes in the law to adapt to electronic commerce.

Hef
10-16-2012, 21:02
I'm just curious, have you ever had to enforce those terms? I would expect that most people who email you requesting a change would expect to pay for the change they requested, but what about those problem children who think they can get something for nothing? Also, what kind of work do you do if you don't mind posting?

I'm getting very interested in the whole electronic communication dynamic and how the legal system treats those communications. It's a big change from requiring notarized signatures on everything....

I have a general contracting business and a custom cabinet/millwork business with a partner.

Few customers are ever a problem. For those who try to get "something for nothing", I have recourse. The threat of a lien is usually enough to get paid. If the amount owed is high enough, we can force a foreclosure, and that scares the hell out people. Legally, I can't remove what I've built/installed, but I can sue to take the property, and if I win I am also entitled to all of my legal fees paid by the customer per our contract.

sombunya
10-16-2012, 21:04
To make a document binding "E-Signature" use a app such as Adobe approval or another that allows for a secured signature in a PDF. It's pretty common these days.


Sent via Messenger Pigeon

I actually "E-Signed", via email, a bunch of documents concerning a refinance of my home. I will say that constitutes "in writing".

Hef
10-16-2012, 21:05
It can be, but not always. A contract concerning real estate is not enforceable unless it is in writing. Same for a contract that can't be executed within one year.

Then you have contracts that require any changes, extensions or additions to be mde in writing.

Being that many of our clients live 1000 miles away, we have a contractually approved change order process where we agree that electronic approvals are binding. We invoice for change orders upon approval and require payment at the next scheduled contract progress payment, and reserve the right to halt work if payment is not received.

bambikilr
10-17-2012, 00:14
yep, it's in writing

frizz
10-17-2012, 01:58
Was the email not in writing? Most of them are.

I don't know about your state, but I have actually dealt with this issue in a Kentucky contract case, and my research said that an email with the senders name is not just "in writing" but is even a "signed writing" that met the requirements of the contract. I can't imagine a state where an email would not, at least, be considered "in writing."

In addition, they probably wrote the contract, instead of you, so a dispute about the term would usually be construed in your favor.

I'd bet a paycheck you win.

Concur.

I wrote a short paper for a business-law class concerning whether or not an e-mail even COULD be a signed writing. This was in the 1990s before any legislation about the issue came up, so I had to work from existing contract principles.

I touched on digital signatures, but I decided that the central issue would turn on whether or not putting /s/ at the bottom of an email would satisfy the signature requirement. I started with the fact that a literal X by an illiterate can suffice since it is an intent to authenticate. Similarly, an /s/ in a typewritten should work for the same reason.

The difficulty with an email is the ease of altering it, but to stick with the central premise of possibility, I worked from the assumption that the contents were not contested.

Given that, the email should be a writing and typing your name with the /s/ indicated a signature with intent to authenticate.

Hey. Got an A+ on that puppy.

Gallium
10-17-2012, 02:07
Concur.

I wrote a short paper for a business-law class concerning whether or not an e-mail even COULD be a signed writing. This was in the 1990s before any legislation about the issue came up, so I had to work from existing contract principles.

I touched on digital signatures, but I decided that the central issue would turn on whether or not putting /s/ at the bottom of an email would satisfy the signature requirement. I started with the fact that a literal X by an illiterate can suffice since it is an intent to authenticate. Similarly, an /s/ in a typewritten should work for the same reason.

The difficulty with an email is the ease of altering it, but to stick with the central premise of possibility, I worked from the assumption that the contents were not contested.

Given that, the email should be a writing and typing your name with the /s/ indicated a signature with intent to authenticate.

Hey. Got an A+ on that puppy.

That is all great, but if you have an agreement that states the contract can only be modified via documentation sent certified or registered mail to a certain recipient, entity or office, then what?

The question is not if an email can be considered "in writing". The true question for him is, IN HIS CIRCUMSTANCE, what constitutes as written notification. And we don't know enough about his circumstance to make resolute statements.

frizz
10-17-2012, 04:13
That is all great, but if you have an agreement that states the contract can only be modified via documentation sent certified or registered mail to a certain recipient, entity or office, then what?

The question is not if an email can be considered "in writing". The true question for him is, IN HIS CIRCUMSTANCE, what constitutes as written notification. And we don't know enough about his circumstance to make resolute statements.
My reply was to Bren, and was not directed to the OP. It was about contracts that had to be in writing and signed.

The answer to your question in the first question is simple: you have to follow the terms if the contract. However, if you start making changes to the agreement via fax, and the other party makes no objection, after you do this a few times, the other side typically can't suddenly dig in its heels and demand adherence.

Contracts can be modified when both sides start ignoring a particular requirement without objection.

Bren
10-17-2012, 04:56
Concur.

I wrote a short paper for a business-law class concerning whether or not an e-mail even COULD be a signed writing. This was in the 1990s before any legislation about the issue came up, so I had to work from existing contract principles.

I touched on digital signatures, but I decided that the central issue would turn on whether or not putting /s/ at the bottom of an email would satisfy the signature requirement. I started with the fact that a literal X by an illiterate can suffice since it is an intent to authenticate. Similarly, an /s/ in a typewritten should work for the same reason.

The difficulty with an email is the ease of altering it, but to stick with the central premise of possibility, I worked from the assumption that the contents were not contested.

Given that, the email should be a writing and typing your name with the /s/ indicated a signature with intent to authenticate.

Hey. Got an A+ on that puppy.

That is pretty similar to my research, as well. I recall something about a name typeset and printed by a printer could be a signature if that was the intent of the parties. Basically, in kentucky your legal name is anything you use and your legal signature is anything you intend to be your signature. A "signature" on an email is an easy one. My case was on modification of a lease of an airport hangar by emails between officers of the lessee and lessor.

frizz
10-17-2012, 05:14
That is pretty similar to my research, as well. I recall something about a name typeset and printed by a printer could be a signature if that was the intent of the parties. Basically, in kentucky your legal name is anything you use and your legal signature is anything you intend to be your signature. A "signature" on an email is an easy one. My case was on modification of a lease of an airport hangar by emails between officers of the lessee and lessor.

If I recall, the gravamen of a signature is whether it was an intent to authenticate.

I don't know if you have familiarity with encryption, but with public key encryption, you can sign a document with your private key, and anyone who has your public key can both verify that you signed the document AND detect any tampering.

If you so much as change one single letter from lower case to upper case in a 500-page contract, the change will cause the document to fail verification.