In the Internet Age, purported electronic signatures are becoming more and more common. They are the standard in certain areas of business law, like when one electronically “signs” a contract to engage in e-commerce. Real estate law, however, has always been more paper driven. While other areas have traditionally allowed for alternative contract forms like oral contracts, matters of real estate have traditionally required a paper contract. Recently, a California court decided a rare case dealing with the validity of an electronic signature.
California Court Decides Validity of Purported Electronic Signature
In this recent decision, J.B.B Investment Partners, LTD v. R. Thomas Fair, the First District Court of Appeals interpreted a portion of California’s version of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). The purpose of this law is to establish that electronic signatures and records are the equivalent of paper records and manually signed signatures for commerce purposes. In the case, a trial court had determined that Fair’s printed name at the end of an e-mail where he had agreed to settlement terms in a prior email from J.B.B. counted as an electronic signature under the UETA and under contract law. The appellate court disagreed and held that Fair’s printed name in the email was not a sufficient electronic signature to make the settlement agreement binding.