E-mail Might Equal E-Signature

Young v. Rose, The Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1

March 15, 2013

Does an electronic business card in an agent’s e-mail constitute an electronic signature? The Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1, sent a case back to trial to determine whether it does.

The agent had a series of representation agreements with a client couple for 18 months, during which time she showed them properties within a defined territory. After the agreement expired, the agent sent an e-mail with some properties to the former clients to see if they were interested in looking at them. After they replied, the agent sent another e-mail with additional information and included a new representation agreement, which the clients printed out, signed, and returned. The agent sent a reply e-mail with “Thank you” but never signed the agreement.

During the period covered by the agreement, the clients found a property within the defined territory and, working with another agent, closed on the purchase. The agent alleged breach of contract and filed suit to claim the commissions. The buyers filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that neither the agent nor her brokerage signed the agreement. The trial court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. But the salesperson appealed and the appellate court sent the case back for further proceedings. It said the question over whether the e-mails constituted an electronic signature was a factual issue to be resolved. The trial court must now rule on this question.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Richard D. Vetstein covers a similar case from Massachusetts in “E-mail Could Be Binding” in the January/February 2013 issue of REALTOR® Magazine.