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Is a Binding Contract Hitting Send? Review of Feldberg V Coxall

Joseph Coupal - Friday, January 25, 2013
The Massachusetts Middlesex Superior court has applied the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (“UETA”) in Feldberg v Coxall. The statute was implemented to bridge a gap between the centuries- old laws used to govern contracts, and the modern digital age. Here, Justice Wilkens concluded that since the circumstances supported an intention by both parties to be bound in an agreement, that when applied in this dispute the UETA could allow the signature block or the ‘from” field on an email to satisfy the record element of a land sale agreement. For the contract between a buyer and seller of land to be held up in court, Massachusetts law requires that there be a “writing” or a record of that agreement. UETA allows this standard to include electronic records. Therefore if a seller and buyer make an agreement through email, they may have created a record. The conduct of the parties is still primary, and Courts look for behavior from both sides to show an intention to be bound. This case is still waiting to be heard on its merits, but Justice Wilkens was clear in his opinion on the electronic signature. He denied dismissal based on the recorded contract being through email, and accordingly the land was attached to the lawsuit. If you find yourself in the exciting transition of buying or selling a home, don’t go through it alone. Laws are always changing and the consequences of seemingly innocuous actions can be significant. Contact a real estate lawyer at Brooks & Crowley LLP to help you navigate through the process. Contributed by Laura Martin

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