The text message has revolutionized how people communicate over long and short distances. Text messages are frequently brought up in court disputes because they represent a digital and traceable form of communication between two or more parties. Can text messages, on the other hand, be used to replace both unilateral and bilateral contracts established between two or more parties? Is it possible for a text message to be considered a legal document as there is a surge in how people spy or receive someone’s Imessages?
What legislation establishes the status of a text message as a legal document?
Under the ESIGN Act, a text message can be considered a legal document, giving electronic contracts the same weight as paper and ink contracts. As long as there is a clear way of consent (checking a box, texting “I agree,” etc.) and real notification, acceptance mechanisms like eSignatures, clickwrap agreements, and text messaging can operate as unilateral contracts (link to a contract document in a text, on a checkout screen, etc).
In general, courts consider contracts legitimate if they have an offer, consideration, ability to contract, and acceptance. Written contracts, digital legal papers, and agreements made by text, email, or other means of communication are all examples of this. Text messages and other kinds of electronic communication are deemed legally enforceable contracts in court if certain requirements are satisfied.
Text messages as contracts: Case law
In the 2016 case of St. John’s Holdings, LLC v. Two Electronics, LLC, the topic of whether a text message constitutes a legal document was challenged.
St. John’s Holdings (SJH) contacted the owner of Two Electronics with an offer to buy the latter’s premises. Both parties agreed to operate via their respective real estate agents. SJH, on the other hand, emailed unsigned Letters of Intent (LOI) repeatedly and failed to include the revisions required by the building’s owner.
Two Electronics, LLC’s broker then sent a text message to the purchasers, SJH, on February 3, 2016, stating that the owner is interested in selling, but that the buyers must first make the revisions to the LOI, sign it, and send a check for the agreed price. Two Electronics had already sold the building to a third party by the time SJH followed the requirements specified in the text message. They did not honor the letter of intent or SJH’s purchase cheque.
The Massachusetts Land Court decided that the text message and the letter of intent were sufficient to meet the Statute of Frauds’ written requirement. Because a real estate transaction must be written under state contract law, this judgment will establish whether text messages are legally comparable to bilateral contracts printed on ink and paper.
A later judgment found that the realtor who accepted the contract lacked permission to do so, and so overturned the previous decision. The court, however, deemed the February 3 communication a legitimate contract due to the mutual sharing of data and desire to deal via text messages.
Should a text message be used as a legal document?
This judgment indicates that text messages can be regarded legally enforceable if they meet the necessary requirements of a bilateral contract in terms of offer, consideration, capacity, and acceptance. Furthermore, the courts concluded that “an enforceable agreement requires (1) words sufficiently full and precise, and (2) the parties’ current intent to be bound by those terms at the time of creation.”
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Text messages can be used to send and accept unilateral and bilateral contracts, according to the E-Sign Act and the case law analysis in St. John’s Holdings v. Two Electronics LLC. When negotiating or revising a contractual agreement by text message, the words “subject to contract” should always be used. The intention to negotiate or alter the offer is readily known in this manner.
“The writing need not be a formal contract,” the court held, “but the contents of the writing must be sufficiently comprehensive and explicit, and the writing must reflect the parties’ present desire to be bound at the time of creation.”